The blog you’re about to read is very different to any of my other blogs. But I feel like I need to write it and bring to the surface an issue that is so often brushed under the carpet.
The simple task of providing one’s body with energy in order for it to function, right? Not so simple. How can such a normal, everyday activity that everyone NEEDS to do be such a sensitive issue? Unfortunately recently, I’ve become very aware of certain aspects around me that I’m uncomfortable with, and something that I feel needs tackling. By no means do I think I personally would ever be able to deal with such issues, but our society needs to change in order for the increasing numbers of people succumbing to food issues to fall significantly. I’ll delve a little deeper…
As an endurance athlete, naturally weight has a great deal to do with performance. From March to September, wherever you go you’ll hear the words ‘race-weight’ at some point. After a winter of hard grafting in the pool and on the roads, it’s time to tighten up. Lean up. Lose the winter wobble. But there’s a fine line and cross over that fine line and it’s a downward spiral. And an incredibly dangerous and upsetting one at that.
I’ve always been a big foodie. As a child I’d be the one going up for seconds at lunch time, waiting around in the school canteen to see if I could wangle the last piece of chocolate cake that was going spare. Turning 17, things changed a bit for me. I became much more aware of what I was eating, and began to restrict my food intake. That sense of control was something I craved but before it got any worse, I grasped hold of reality again and realised what I was doing was actually detrimental to my performance. I had no power and a real lack of energy. I hadn’t succumbed to a serious long term problem. And I’m so glad.
What is heart-breaking to see is the number of athletes, male and female getting so caught up in this. We train for hours and hours every single day, that piece of cake that you so desperately want but your mind won’t let you have? Why? Why is there that mental boundary? And more importantly, why has body weight become such an issue? I can’t even begin to try and answer those questions. I don’t have the answers. But I sure as hell wish I did so I could eliminate such issues from people’s lives. I admit that personally, I am on the larger side of life for a triathlete. I’m by no means small. But at the same time, I fit into size 8 clothing. So in reality I can’t be THAT big. I have big legs but these legs are what have got me to represent my country at both junior and senior level. They’ve done a good job so far so why should I change it so drastically? Why try and fix what’s not even broken?
The problem isn’t just rife in sport though. It’s everywhere you look. Everyday life. Magazines. Newspapers. Internet. You can’t get away from it.
Society has become so fixated on weight that no matter where you go you can’t get away from it. Social media is one of the worst things for it. The number of spam emails I get telling how I can ‘lose 10lbs in 7 days!’ or how to ‘ditch the flab’. Whatever it is, I can’t help but think why? Why does your weight have to define you? What is it with the whole thigh gap craze?! Are you really defined by the gap between your thighs? Surely not.
This weekend I surprised some of my best buds Rhianne, Katie, Sophie and Ailbhe by turning up in Loughborough. Rhianne and I went for a ride on Saturday afternoon, stopping for an ice cream on the way. I may have worked my way through an entire bottle of wine that night. And me and Katie went out for breakfast on Sunday morning. I had no worries about any of that. Until I took one look at the breakfast menu, and there they were, in tiny little writing next to each dish. The calorie content. Why? Why do I need to know that the sausage sandwich I really wanted had 473 calories in it? I didn’t. But it still made me aware of it and made me doubt my decision. But for me, that was one meal. For others, it can become a total fixation. It can take over and totally take away any freedom you once had. I hate it.
I guess what I’m really getting at is that I wish more than anything that these issues weren’t around us. Be happy in yourself, no matter if you’re a size 6 or a size 16. You’re still beautiful and you’re still on this planet for a reason. Life really is too short to get worked up by something like this. One of my favourite things to do is to bake. Yes, I love the finished product I get when it comes out of the oven and I can decorate it any way I want. But what I love more is seeing the delight on everyone’s faces when they have a slice of it! People ENJOYING food! That’s what it’s there for! It shouldn’t need to be a tool for control.
I’m finding it hard to close this blog and I don’t know if it’s because I don’t have answers or if it’s because I have a lot more to say. It’s such a tough topic to write about when it’s all around you and so prevalent. I know a lot of people who probably feel the same way I do and I just felt like I needed to voice my thoughts. I know it won’t change anything, and I doubt many people will even read this. But I needed to say it.
Have your cake and eat it too. It won’t hurt.