Fat Girls

About seven years ago, someone of the female persuasion sent the following message to the Ultra list. Below, I’ll paste my reply.

[This is a rant that can be taken to many sports, so don’t go off on me on THAT angle, please….. ballet, gymnastics, 10K runners, rock climbers, whatever. I don’t do those sports. So I’m talking about long distance runners.]

You know what I’m talking about. That occasional girl on the cover of Ultrarunning above a 19.5 BMI. You see her and you think, “ah, a mid-pack photo of a girl whose thighs *touch*… how charitable of them”.

Its every day. Running with a local group, you look at the cross section of people and you see a token ‘older’ person, a token Clydesdale guy….. but god forbid if you’re a chick under 50 without a six-pack.

I am not fat. I am 5’6″ (5’7″ to the BMI chart to make me feel better), and 131 pounds 98% of the time. I have 23% body fat, on the low side of “normal/average” for females. I am well muscled, though some of those muscles are not as visible as they would be if I had 15% body fat.

I don’t control my food intake. I don’t dress in baggy clothes when I’m not running (or when I am running, for that matter). In my normal life, I feel sexy, thin, and healthy.

In my running life, I am fat. I *feel* enormous every single day I run with other women who are my height but 10-30lbs lighter. I don’t want to wear shorts with tight waistbands that might make the fat over my kidneys look even more egregious. I would never wear “real” running shorts, the kind that would make it obvious that my thighs have an intimate relationship with each other. I am fighting diligently the genes of my 56 year old mother who is so pear-shaped you’d like to poach her in red wine and serve her for dessert.

The men I run with every week range from 130lbs to over 200. Some are thin and toned, but a few have anywhere between a slight belly and a full-fledged weight problem. I do not perceive anything negative toward any of them. Yet when I ask any of them if they know my female running friend, ‘you know, the one with the long brown hair, kind of quiet, was here last week…’ they shake their heads. If I add in the qualifier, ‘and she’s a little heavy….’, that sparks recognition every time.

Do women create this all on our own? Are we that competitive and jealous? Or is there another source for the contradiction?

I am trying to start a discussion here, obviously, and perhaps provoke some heated responses as well. But also I just wanted to vent against something that has been bothering me for quite some time, doesn’t seem to be getting any better, and thusly has been occupying my thoughts as of late.

From: me [email deleted]
Sent: Monday, September 29, 2003 2:29 PM
To: [name deleted]; [ultra list email deleted]

Subject: RE: fat girls

Size isn’t ugly; flab is. Way I look at it, some of the skinniest models are difficult to look at because they’re so obviously out of shape. Those pasty-white soft-looking legs, bleh. On the other hand…

I was running on the Stanford campus and feeling so high on life and happiness that I couldn’t restrain myself from singing a song that my spiritual teacher wrote:

If you’re seeking freedom, seek it on the mountain,
God’s sunlight on your shoulder, the wind in your hair.
Where there’s no one can scold you, boss about or mold you –
Once your heart is free, you’ll be king everywhere!

After 100 yards I turned and saw that a young woman had been following and listening while I sang. Her face was split ear-to-ear in a smile of warmth and beauty. She wore the uniform of a Stanford varsity athlete, and she was obviously not a hurdler or a pole vaulter, if you get my drift and I think you do. She was something other than a sylph, and she was tanned and  lovely.

Maybe it’s my age and monastic vocation. As I approach the end of a man’s seven ages, I’m seeing attractiveness more impersonally, as a question of magnetism, energy, attitude, intelligence, inner truth, and heart. High qualities are more attractive now than flesh and blood.

I can’t help feeling that women do set themselves up. I knew an ultrarunner who had attractive, athletic legs, but she didn’t like them. Too athletic! Too butch! I give up.

Discuss among yourselves, girls, I’m going for a run.

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