a perfect woman: the shapes of our bodies and exercise’s role

in my lifetime (i’m 22 years of age) the conversation of women’s bodies, how the media portrays women’s bodies, and, in turn, how women view and value themselves has been a topic of great concern and attention in an effort to shift our culture and nation’s value of women and the images that follow. oftentimes people argue that women of any shape or size should be and is valued and appreciated, despite the media and our society’s fanatic obsession with extremely skinny, tall, arian women. and i too believe this notion that women (and all people) should be valued regardless of their external image and shape.

with that in mind, i’d like to add to this discussion. though i argue that everyone has the right to live their life the way they please, be it active or inactive, resulting in each person’s respective body types and shapes, i also strongly believe that being physically active, strong, and fit are extremely important in my life in particular. physical activity, a walk, run, bike, lift, hike, etc., is essential to my personal happiness and functionality within my life and my ability to excel within it. that said, not everyone agrees with this, and i am accepting of people’s dislike and lack of appreciation of exercise, physical strength and exploration of nature and wilderness. i am an advocate for free will and freedom to live one’s life how each person desires (without harming others).

taking these factors into consideration, i would like to address the health issues and benefits of avoiding exercising and being overweight and/or inactive. one of the central reasons why i’m such an active person, in addition to exercise’s crucial role in my life, is because exercise keep my body healthy. i strongly believe that people who remain active throughout their lives will live longer, healthier, happier lives. my grandfather, who is turning 80 this june hikes up the 3,000 foot high, steep as hell ski mountain in my hometown, sun valley, idaho. he does this about three times per week in the winter and about the same in the summer when he’s in town. he hiked mount borah, the tallest mountain in idaho, when he was 75 year of age. he’s one of the most active grandfathers i know, and his health, though he just had a hip replacement, is stable and he’s in great shape. i use him as an example for who i want to become and how i want to live my life to achieve the happiest, longest, healthiest life possible for me.

i believe that without physical exercise that i cannot achieve this life. in this argument of body image and the issues that coincide with such arguments, i take issue with the health conditions, physical abilities, and other aspects of leading a non-active, sedentary life that result in being overweight and being larger. it is not the shape of one’s body i have any issue with at all. but i do feel that in this argument that women’s bodies are highly scrutinized by the media and popular culture that issues of health are ignored and silenced.

though i am fully aware vast amounts of people disagree with my appreciation and necessity of physical exercise in my life, i will still share my story:

let me preface it with this: i have not valued exercise this way my entire life. in fact, in the years before i came to college, i spent long periods without exercise and others i spent participating in swim team, cross country running, downhill ski teams and cross country ski teams. in my freshmen and sophomore years in college, i rowed for my school’s crew team and found a newly discovered need for competitive spirit and energy, for fitness and physical movement. i began to push myself to places i had not yet ventured, making new goals, achieving new highs, barfing on myself here and there as i pushed myself past my limits. i left the crew team at the closing of my sophomore year due to overcommitment and the team’s dynamics. after these two years on the team, i’d gained 35 pounds of both fat and muscle.

though i found a new part of myself that craved competition, i exercised very infrequently and abnormally my junior year, as i was my own coach, my own instructor, as i set my own schedule and was the only person holding myself accountable. i had to make my own workout plan, schedule my own time to lift, swim, run, get myself back into shape. and i struggled. it was one of the darkest, most frustrating times in my life thus far. my emotions ranged from very high to very low, especially days in which i didn’t find myself at the gym. i had very low self confidence and believed i would never accomplish goals i’d set and wished to achieve my entire life. i felt self conscious almost all the time, and my self worth was minimal. i believe i felt so entirely out of wack because of the lack of physical exercise in my life.

so the following year, my senior year and this present year, i vowed and committed myself to permanently changing that. when i left school to drive home at the end of my junior year, i made a diet change and cut out gluten entirely. i began to eat high protein foods, veggies, fruits, nuts, healthy grains (rice, quinoa), and other healthy snacks. i maintained small portions and ate only when i was hungry. i began to start my journey towards accomplishing these goals i’d maintained my entire life that i once thought i’d never be fit enough to achieve. i began to shed weight, and, most importantly, in losing weight, i began to be able to accomplish these fitness goals: running long(er) distances, biking, lifting, doing hand and headstands and balance poses. my confidence rose again, i fit into my clothes again, and i feet healthier. i lost 37 pounds from 179 and now weight 142. i feel cleaner and clearer than ever before. i value myself and feel sexier than i have ever before. i was born to be fit, to accomplish these goals, to reach new heights and achieve more than i ever anticipated. in this fitness journey, i have never been happier.

it’s not that i disagree with being plus size or over weight. it’s that i am immensely happier when i’m able to intensely work out and compete, when i feel like i’m gliding on the track more than running upon it, when i feel like i’m the strongest i’ve ever been- and that i got myself there without a coach or a team.

yes, it’s incredibly problematic the view of women’s bodies that the media practices. it terribly affects women’s sense of self worth and confidences. but, to me, when it comes down to it, i need exercise to live, to feel happiness, to concentrate, to function. i need to be fit to live my life. and i strongly feel that i can only do this when i’m a certain weight and have a certain body content, when i’m able to move my body and work my body.

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