Feeling Good: Biking and Self-Image
A magical moment occurred at the July 24 Spokane Summer Parkways event. A woman stopped by our booth, whisked her way through the rack of Nuu-Muus and Ruu-Muus, and announced, “I own two already; I’m getting another one because I’ve gained weight.”
Why magical? Because, as my 17-year-old daughter who was helping in the booth noted, one of the most frequently mentioned barriers to buying one of these wonderful exercise dresses was, “Oh, these are so cute. I’ll have to get one—as soon as I lose 10 (20/30/40) pounds.”
Yet here was a woman treating herself to a short blue flowered dress in size XXL because she had gained weight. She’s comfortable with herself and confident about how she looks in a Nuu-Muu. (She should be—they’re awesome and she looked great. More on that in another post.)
This reaction to a cute little dress reflects far deeper issues. We have been sold an airbrushed bill of goods on what women (and men, for that matter) “should” look like.
Women “should” have no apparent fat storage other than in a strategically located shelf just below the clavicle and some toned and lifted booty. When you turn sideways to look at yourself in a mirror, I’ll bet you instinctively suck in your stomach and straighten your posture (and you did just now as you read this, didn’t you?). We’re not even supposed to wear sleeveless tops after a certain age because the flesh might keep waving after we stop moving the arm.
Another woman looking at the Nuu-Muus at the South Perry Street Fair said to my friend Betsy, who wears a size 00, “Of course it looks adorable on you; you’re a size nothing. But what if you have some junk in the trunk?” Betsy said, “Hey, Barb, turn around!” Yep, that’s me—comfortably cushioned and quite happy in my Nuu-Muu.
However, despite having worked mindfully to get past the body obsession fostered by too many issues of Seventeen, Glamour, and Mademoiselle consumed in my formative years, I still have “aha” moments, like the epiphany I had in one of Betsy’s yoga classes recently.
The two women on adjacent mats were larger than I am and fairly round—not the hot yoga body you will see on the cover of Yoga Journal. And here they were doing yoga in form-fitting clothes.
What I realized was that if I look at Betsy and see the flat stomach I don’t have, they look at me and see the waistline they don’t have, and somewhere there is a woman who can’t even leave her home because she can’t walk to the door who would look at them and see the mobility and grace that she doesn’t have. Except for that woman trapped in her home, though, any one of us riding a bike down a hill is light as a feather.
As my friend Kris pointed out in a blog post, we fear the adjectives we carry around in our heads to describe ourselves, but they’re probably not the ones our friends think of.
The comments illustrating this post are responses to my question on Facebook about how biking makes people feel. The people who responded are all shapes and sizes, and I couldn’t tell you their waistline measurement. I can tell you that they’re funny, interesting, and active. And I can tell you that they look happy when they’re on the bike.
- Why Size Doesn’t Matter, on Fitness Bliss with Kris
- How Bikes Can Save the World (look for the part on the ego boost I get from biking)
- Living Large–and Healthy–on the Bike (Elly Blue on Grist)
- Fat Broad on a Bike: Don’t Hide–Ride! (on Women’s Cycling, Canada)
- How do you feel when you ride your bike?
- Are there body parts you obsess over?
- Have you created self-imposed boundaries about things you “can’t” wear because of your size or shape?
- Do you think you could stop should-ing on yourself? (Say that fast and you’ll hear what you’re really doing to yourself)