Guest Post: Elise talks body image (and eats some stuff, including cake)

This is Elise. She is awesome. Would I feature un-awesome people on Cake? Of course not! But seriously, she’s one of those people who makes the blogging world feel like a supportive, happy community. And she makes me laugh.

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Hi, my name is Elise and I have a blog called Hungry Hungry Hippie.  When Kate asked me to write a guest post about my thoughts on body image, I figured why not…it’s not like I should be packing or planning a wedding or anything… ;)   I kid, I am more than happy to contribute to Eat The Damn Cake.

So, for those who don’t know me, a bit of background info:

  • I’m mostly vegan
  • Running is my #1 hobby
  • I like food (dining is my #2 hobby)

So now that we’ve established that I am an active foodie.  Let’s get to the meat tofu and potatoes of why I’m here.

As a (former*) athlete, my feelings about my own body are mostly based on my fitness ability.

*I only say former because I have no clue what qualifications it takes to consider yourself an “athlete” as an adult.

**Ok, I just looked up the definition of athlete, and I think it’s safe to say I do, in fact, qualify as one.

But getting back to my opinions on body image…In terms of loving my body, like any girl, I have good days and bad days, which usually coincide with how physically fit I feel at the moment. This may be weird, but it’s the truth.  When I am training for races (halfs & 10Ks are my bread and butter), I push myself more than normal, and as a result, I feel strong and proud upon the completion of said runs.  I love my strong calf muscles, and even though my legs are short, I see them as toned and beautiful, and they make me happy.  However, on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, it takes just one missed workout for me to start doubting myself.  Suddenly I feel insecure and begin noticing (and mentally inflating) how much slower and/or weaker I feel.  Sounds ridiculous right? I’m not claiming my thoughts are rational by any means (moreover since I consider myself to be a fairly logical person, I am completely aware of how insane it sounds to feel “out of shape” after a day without exercise), I’m just telling you how it is (in my head).  I can be the EXACT same (in terms of weight, percentage body fat, or musculature) as the day before, but for some random reason, I feel much worse.  The sexy, muscular legs that I admired the day before, now seem short and stumpy, and my body, which used to represent the epitome of fitness, no longer seems like it deserves the title of “athlete.”

You see, for me, it’s not the scale or the mirror that’s my enemy, it’s my own crazy competitive athletic demons that dictate if I am kicking ass and taking names or if I am just another girl who likes to run.

I know Kate has mentioned before that she avoids reflective surfaces, but for me, it’s not mirrors that pose a threat to how I view myself.  Instead, I judge myself based on my fitness level.  By no means is it a more healthy way of physically examining myself; it’s just what I do.  I love to run and I am competitive.  So, if I’m not beating others in a half marathon, I’m trying to beat myself in a “leisurely” jog (how crazy do I sound right now).  Oh, and for the record, I suck at doing anything leisurely.  I’m very much an all or none kind of girl, so if I enter a race, I’m going to put my heart and soul into it (or be a no show – which I have done btw).  To me a great run is one that I feel energized throughout, that I enjoy from the start to the end, and that I’m not dragging myself through just to say I got in my daily exercise. I hate forcing myself to be active*.

*This has become a main areas of focus for me to improve upon (one that I’ve been really good at changing too – if I do say so myself).

Earlier in my life, I would push through runs that weren’t even enjoyable for no reason other than to just do it (thanks Nike).  I’d like to think I’m wiser now, and I know that not every day is going to be “the best run ever” so as long as I tried my best, there’s no reason to feel like I have failed.

Now, to be fair to myself (and recognize how much progress I have made in maintaining a more normal [read: less obsessive] approach to being physically active), I should mention that I have mellowed out A LOT over the past couple of years.  With my high-stress 12 hour shifts, there is no way in hell I could maintain the level of activity I used to (in my undergrad/nursing school days).  Back then I ran every day which (in hindsight) seems a bit excessive.  Plus, the lack of variation in my workouts sucked the fun out of running because it became so much a ritual that it was nothing but that – a routine that I did for the sake of crossing it off my to-do list.  Nowadays, I have a much more flexible (and thus healthier) approach to running – and my fitness level in general.  My first concession was that working 12 hour shift was mentally and physically draining enough, and adding exercise to the end of my work days was insane.  Now, I consider my work days to be exercise-free days, and my days off are my gym days.  It took me a while to feel comfortable with this schedule, but it was immediately apparent that my body relished the days of rest.  Rather than suffering through daily mediocre gym efforts, I was able to focus all my energy on giving 100% 3 days a week.  It was a hard thing to get used to, though.  Not because I was afraid of gaining weight, but because I feared the strength and endurance I worked so hard for would vanish into thin air – and with it, my body image would plummet. What can I say, I’m a freak.

Here’s the funny part.  Once I let go of my obsession with my fitness (as it related to my body image), I became faster and stronger than I ever was before, and my confidence soared.  I ended up placing in races when I had done little to no real training.

Now, this is not meant to be some sort of inspirational if-I-can-do-it-so-can-you essay about throwing caution to the wind and abandoning your inner demons because believe me, they are still there.  I still spend full days in PJs without leaving my apartment and I DO feel guilty and bad about it (try as I might to fake it and pretend I’m cool with being sloth, it still bothers me).  But, the difference now, is that I am better able to get over it and start the next day feeling like it’s a chance to start fresh, as opposed to one in which I am already 6 miles (read: a day’s worth of cardio) behind.

If you are surprised that this post isn’t more about veganism and how it relates to body image, you aren’t alone.  I, too, thought I was going to write about being vegan and how that ties into how I perceive myself, but when I actually got down to thinking about it, I realized there really wasn’t any correlation between the two in my own mind.  Sure, I’m vegan, and I’m passionate about it too, but that is for health reasons, not vanity…in terms of my physical appearance, I don’t consider veganism to be a factor in my body image.  How weird that I separate being “healthy” from having a healthy body image.  Shouldn’t they be more or less the same?  You would think…in a perfect world maybe.

Un-Roast: Right now I’m loving my eyes.  Since my last day of work, I’ve gotten extra sleep and there is a noticeable difference…not just in the lack of bags under my eyes or the absence of redness.  When I look in the mirror after waking up, there’s a mix of happy, peaceful, excitement behind my eyes.  Plus, I love how bright blue they are.

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Thanks so much, Elise! If I had a time machine, I might steal some of that chocolate cake from your little toddler self. That’s what kind of a person I am.


Kate on May 12th 2010 in guest post

10 Responses to “Guest Post: Elise talks body image (and eats some stuff, including cake)”

  1. E responded on 12 May 2010 at 1:32 pm #

    Elise is the shit. She is awesome. That is all.

  2. ellie responded on 12 May 2010 at 2:49 pm #

    AWESOME post, Elise. Thank you for sharing this- really, I don’t know why I always assume that people have things all together and don’t have these issues. I love that you still acknowledge these but have found a balance that you can live with :)

  3. Wei-Wei responded on 13 May 2010 at 11:26 am #

    I think that we judge ourselves by a lot of different things, and it’s different for everyone. Whether it’s the image in the mirror, or the number on the scale, or the time for a run, we all judge ourselves, and others, in some way. What really matters is how you decide to react to this judgment, and ultimately how it affects your relationship with yourself, others, and yes, cake. (Whoops, meant food.)

    I absolutely love how this post made me think. You’re beautiful, Elise! Keep it up and stay strong :)


  4. Gena responded on 13 May 2010 at 12:13 pm #

    Great post! One thing I’m really grateful for is that exercise is, for me, separate from my sense of body image, but that wasn’t always so. I think these are highly understandable and insightful thoughts, and I thank you for them, Elise!

  5. Sarah responded on 13 May 2010 at 4:35 pm #

    Thanks Elise! This is such a great post. As I was reading it I was thinking how much I relate to what you were saying. My perception of myself and body image is SO related to how active I’ve been rather than how I actually look. As always, you rock :) x

  6. Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) responded on 13 May 2010 at 9:05 pm #

    i am clearly way late in this comment, but i love elise and am here to say, great post, so awesome, and given your crazy life right now, bravo for even attempting a guest post!!! you’re my hero! xo

  7. I’m so paid « hungry hungry hippie responded on 14 May 2010 at 12:24 am #

    [...] I sign off, though, I wanted to let you all know that I have a guest post up on Kate and Maggie’s blog Eat The Damn Cake.  These lovely girls have such mature and [...]

  8. Annerie responded on 14 May 2010 at 6:20 am #

    Very nice read! I guess we all have our own demons to work on. Being a woman over the age of 40, I have my own. I would like to weigh less although I am fairly fit; nothing like how fit you are. We all have our own scale. I go for 7 mile hikes every weekend at a fairly quick pace. I appreciated that you didn’t make the post about being a vegan. Right now I have a few vegan friends and sometimes it feels like that is all they talk about, Being Vegan. It gets tiresome. Even though we are totally different in our body image views, I got a lot out of what you wrote. Thank you!

  9. Mama Pea responded on 14 May 2010 at 5:48 pm #

    Great post, my love. You have gorgeous eyes, a healthy approach to eating and can pack away hummus like no one I have ever seen. I can’t wait to feed you when you come visit this summer. :)

  10. Ethel responded on 14 May 2010 at 6:25 pm #

    Very inspirational. Palabra! There really is something about exercising that makes you feel THAT much better. I agree that at the end of the day, it’s not the pounds that concern me, it’s how comfortable I am with how much progress I’ve made and how good I feel after that progress. Cheers to you!