#KeepingItReal


The excellent journal Level Renner recently posted a link to an article written by Lauren Fleshman entitled “Let’s Keep It Real About Our Bodies,” published online on Runner’s World, that has gotten me thinking about how body image issues affect us all, male or female, athletic or not.  Fleshman is a pro runner for Oiselle  who maintains a very popular blog in which she answers questions from fans in a very honest way.  It’s this honesty, and the public way in which she handles challenges and adversity that has endeared her to fans.

In the blog piece, Fleshman discusses a piece she wrote last November called “Keeping It Real” in which she posts both a picture of her looking her best, 3 months postpartum, at a Oiselle fashion show:

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And another picture taken the same week when her stomach isn’t “turbo-flexed and sucked in”:

Fleshman real

While Fleshman doesn’t technically make her living based on how her body looks, as opposed to how it performs, clearly her relationship with Oiselle has something to do with looking good in running clothing, which tends to be fairly exposing.  That she had the courage to post “real” pictures hopefully will be inspiring to young runners who not only face pressure to be thin from fashion media, but from the images they see of pros, who always appear taut and lean.  Though there aren’t studies (that I could find) to provide numbers, there is ample anecdotal evidence that eating disorders are a very real problem among female collegiate runners, as discussed in a New York Times article from 2006.

But it’s not just women, and not just pros, who struggle with body image.  In her piece, Fleshman talks about going through race pictures and being sure to pick out the best ones to post, something I, and most runners, I suspect, do.  I grew up chubby, but got whippet thin in high school through running XC and indoor track.

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I sometimes look back at that picture and lament that I don’t have that same physique any more, despite the many hours and miles of running I log.  When I post blog pictures, I pick the ones that downplay the weight I’ve gained, or that I could generously be described as “hirsute,” or any other number of imperfections.  Fleshman ends her article with this challenge, and I am going to take her up on it to be a part of a movement towards self-acceptance and pride over self-doubt and obsessing over perceived flaws:

“The Challenge: Everyone keeps saying how powerful social media is. Let’s use it to redefine beauty. Post an unflattering photo of your body on Facebook or Twitter and spread the word. Add the hashtag #keepingitreal. When we click on that hashtag we’ll be able to see a collection of photos from real people that represent truth. How refreshing will that be?”

In that spirit, I leave you with some pictures of me #keepingitreal, and urge you to do the same.  Run happy, my friends.  Run proud.

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