Female train conductor: You are strong! I can tell…you have really athletic shoulders. What do you do?
Me: Oh, thanks, I do CrossFit.
FTC: I knew it! I want to get in shape.
Me: Well, CrossFit will definitely help you get in shape and lose weight!
FTC: No… I don’t want to lose weight, I don’t want to be skinny. I want to be and look strong like you are!
This wonderfully refreshing conversation I had with a female train conductor a few months ago is something I think of often in a world where “skinny” is the standard women still hold themselves to. Like many women, it took me a while to realize that I don’t want to be
Up until about the age of 14 I was skin and bones, 5’6” weighing in at maybe 100lbs on a good day, and one of the fastest swimmers in the state despite my less than intimidating presence behind the starting block. Seriously, I looked frail and awkward (update: while the frailness has since disappeared, you can still count on my exceedingly awkward presence anywhere, anytime. You’re welcome!). Despite my weight, I ate everything in sight! I’m talking double peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at lunch with sugar cookies (the half-baked still gooey kind), rice crispie treats, pop tarts before practice, and an entire pizza to myself for dinner. But soon my growth spurts and metabolism slowed, I joined the top level group on my swim team and added in weight training and dryland sessions, and in 1 year I went from a size zero at 100lbs to a size 6 at 140lbs. While a size 6 at 140lbs for a high school female athlete (or any female athlete really) is completely normal and healthy, the sudden 40lb weight gain seriously upset me, and I wasn’t mature enough to understand how and why training 9 times a week for a sport changes the number on the scale. I had it in my head that if I was muscular, the number would be lower, and that if it was high, it meant I was fat. I wanted to make Olympic Trials, but be a twig.
Queue a now 12 year struggle with weight, body image issues, and confidence issues. I pretty much became obsessed with wanting to be skinny– starving myself, binge eating, trying to survive on carrots and egg whites, punishing myself by not eating when I indulged, etc. Basically I was “hangry” ALL THE TIME. I wasn’t mature enough, or informed enough, to understand nutrition or to love and embrace my athletic body type. It was a time when myself, and so many other females, wanted to embody the models you see in magazines and the actresses on tv– stick thin, no boobs, no butts, thigh gaps, and ballerina arms. And who can blame us? When you hear a guy talk about how hot some 110lb actress is, us normal folk can’t help but compare ourselves and think that it’s the standard we should hold ourselves to.
It took me quite a few years to become comfortable with my own body, and it took until finding CrossFit SOAR in the spring of 2013 to become truly confident with my body, no matter what the scale said (for the record, I’ve gained 25lbs since starting CrossFit, and my jeans are still the same size.
IGNORE THE SCALE!) It wasn’t until I joined CrossFit that I noticed I got a different kind of respect for my body and it’s capabilities, especially from the men. Everyone who does CrossFit knows how hard you work to make your body do the things that it is capable of, and there is a certain level of respect from others, men especially, that females seem to get when their thighs, arms, butt, and abs morph into a full bodied ass-kicking machine. Suddenly I am part of a community where women want hips and a butt and the men want that for the women too, and both see it as a sign of hard work, not being “fat”. As CrossFit and being “strong” instead of “skinny” is gaining in popularity, I can’t help but smile when I hear men and women talk enthusiastically about someone’s athletic build, hearing things like “I wish I had her ass” instead of “I wish my legs were as thin as hers”. I can only hope this trend of “strong is the new skinny” continues to become more mainstream, because whether you eat the cheeseburger with or with out the bun, bacon or no bacon, fries or a salad, food is good. Strong is good. CrossFit is good.
CrossFit SOAR is a CrossFit Affiliate serving Bergen and Passaic Counties, including the towns of Fair Lawn, Glen Rock, Hawthorne, Paramus, Ridgewood and Wyckoff. At SOAR, you will finda an inclusive community offering more that a workout; we’ll provide you with a CrossFit Family. We provide a range of programs, including traditional CrossFit, Boot Camps and Kid/Teen fitness programs. The first class is always free, and there are never any long-term commitments.