For my human resource development leadership lab, we wrote an 8-10 page paper on our identity and how it affects us as leaders. The paper was a lot of me, me, me, so I was glad to see my classmates yesterday and hear their perspectives. One subject that came up is body consciousness. Females and males alike expressed body shape shame and we explored a little into how our society sets expectations (though different expectations) for both genders to adhere to fitness and nutrition standards.
Those of you readers in the JMU community know this to be true by simply visiting UREC. The downstairs weight room? For the boys. The elliptical/aerobic training room? For the girls. I’m being snarky, but truly, have you ever noticed how disparate the ratio is of men:women (or women:men, depending which room you’re in).
As young adults, we tend to judge fitness in two ways: physical prowess and weight. Generally speaking, if a guy can bench-press 200 lbs, no one is going to mock his weight. And if a girl is “skinny” enough, no one will question what ends she goes to to maintain that figure. In reality, neither non-FDA approved protein powder (to build muscle) nor hours upon hours on a treadmill (to lose weight) sound like appealing options to me to fit others’ expectations of what I should look like.
To some degree, I don’t believe in letting my weight control how I feel about my body if I have decent cardiovascular endurance. About a year ago, I started ignoring the number on my scale and instead focused on the BMI, figuring that as a height-to-ratio it had to be somewhat more accurate that purely my weight. As NPR reports, however, I may have been wrong to measure myself this way. I had spent many minutes a month logging my weight and height into an online BMI calculator without thinking about all the information that those numbers failed to represent. The extra weight I carry around my middle… my strong bones, thanks to years of drinking two glasses of milk a day… the genes I carry from my dad, an 80-year-old with multiple nonagenarian siblings… THOSE are the facts that give a more accurate representation of how healthy I am, not a 200-year-old formula created by a man who wasn’t a physician, but a mathematician.
I really believe that more emphasis should be put on eating healthy and exercising regularly. They’re not quick fixes, but for many people, these tactics work. So, I try to alternate my Festival pasta-special days with my Mrs. Green’s salad bar days. However, one of the most frustrating experiences for me is to be asked if I’m dieting simply because the asker sees me eating a salad. What is it about being female and eating salad that links me to dieting? Yes, I realize that many individuals (men and women alike) eat salads as a way to get their veggies. Yet, to assume that I, as a woman who tries to eat healthy, am trying to get rid of the body I have is annoying and falsely assumptive. Do not place me into a category because of my gender. Sometimes I just want a little supple avocado or crunchy carrots in my day, mmkay? Not all women are eating salads because they’re unhappy with their bodies. For many of us, it’s about trying to put clean energy in so we can maximize our energy production later in the day. To look at my plate and make a judgment about my lifestyle, my self-consciousness, and my goals is unfair.
Why is there so much shame around salads? Since when have salads gotten such a bad rap?
…It’s a toss-up. HA!
But really, it’s not just salads. There is often split focus on “healthy” foods (salads, for example) vs. “unhealthy” foods (an ice-cream cone). Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, really. If you’re a woman, eat a salad and you’re dieting, eat an ice-cream cone and you’ve given up hope on your body. Why is there such a dichotomy?
Let’s get one thing straight, dear (past, present, and future) dinner companions: I wear size 12 or 14 jeans, depending if I’m shopping at Old Navy or Target. I’m 5’9″ and I weigh between 164-168 lbs. My BMI (which we all know now isn’t an accurate measure anyway), at my heaviest, puts me at the upper end of “normal” weight. No, I’m not trying to lose weight; I’m trying to get fit. I’m trying to get to my goal of running a half-marathon in June. And you know what? Somedays I like salads. Some days I like a cone from Kline’s. The last thing I need from someone I invite to eat with me is a critique on whether I’m not eating enough calories or too many. Presumably, since you agreed to dine with me, you like me enough to sit in on an hour-long critique of topics ranging from Rebecca Black to JMU’s DisABILITY Awareness Week to the political situation in Libya. My eating patterns (and as a result, my weight and fitness) are of no relevance to me as a human being in relation to you. Crunch on THAT!
So now to you, gentle (and hungry) readers: are there any foods that you dislike eating in public? And/or, how do you measure your physical fitness?