I spent years and years having a good old whinge about my body. It's not the right shape here, too big there, not smooth enough around here, "these jeans look terrible", "why can't I get my arms that toned?"...is this all sounding disgustingly familiar?
And yet my poor body has never said a word against me. It functions ok, it's never been on strike for a better benefits package and it quietly heals itself after I've thrown disgraceful amounts of red wine at it on special occasions.
Granted, that last one hasn't always been without some abject horror but we've always come through it together in the end (See exhibit one, aaaand exhibit two, please note that the Malboros are not mine but the lip balm is).
More recently however, since I took up running, I've lessened this tendency to complain about the shape, size and aesthetic condition of my body. I've lessened the wine tendency too. Everything works, which is more than some people have the great fortune of. Since I made running a regular part of my routine I've been much more careful about what I put in to my body to fuel it, repair it and maintain it. I confess that the past week has been peppered with indulgent treats such as smoked duck and Roquefort, but please don't hold that kind of maintenance against me. More importantly, working with children and young people who cope admirably with severe physical and learning disabilities serves as a regular reminder of how fortunate I am to have a healthy body. I need to just shut up and put it to best use.
I'll not talk about how healthy I feel and give you some good quinoa recipes...we'll crack that open when we're desperate.
No, we're on the topic of aesthetics today. I've found that running hasn't just made me more aware of what's good for my body and what to avoid, but it's made me more confident and rational about the way I view my body and the way I take to heart how other people view me.
Newsflash: no-one in the street pays any attention. And if it's true that everyone at the gym is only looking at your not-pert-enough bum, then they'll never recognise your face...will they? In a nutshell, it's not worth losing any sleep over.
Don't get me wrong, I like to look nice and I firmly believe it's important to...well, be clean for a start. I like to dress smartly for my work because I feel more professional and respected if I look "slammin'", as my friend Kate would say. But there's one sure fire way to guarantee my truest confidence: put me in skin tight black lycra leggings and a sleeveless top, scrape all my hair into the tightest, messiest, frizziest bun imaginable and let me go outside and sweat as much as I can in the time I have. If it's a cold day I might even blow my nose into thin air. Hot, right?! Because there exists in life a state and time when no-one cares what you look like.
Sure, I wish this was the case all of the time. Society has developed this horrible habit of "judging others as we judge ourselves" and it's this wildly distorted self judgement that's crippling people, especially young women and teenagers who have nothing to be concerned about and should be focusing on something far more important than if they'll ever fit into a River Island size 8...
My running gear is akin to full body armour...impenetrable, robust and all in a size 12-14. I can spend half an hour deciding if I look acceptable to go to a meeting (due to Dombulbit/"does my bum look big in this?" syndrome), but I don't seem to have any problems at all heading out in top to toe Nike Dri-Fit that leaves little to anyone's imagination. How can that be?! It must be the action of running, and principally the unabashed smugness that goes along with exercise. I hate myself so hard right now. I'd have been better off going with the quinoa recipe...
Today's top tip: If you're crippled with Dombulbit Syndrome, get some "confidence pants" and get out for a little 10min jog or even a quick walk. Enjoy the liberation of sweating in public without any associated stigma, then come home, put your jeans on and think "at least I'm not in lycra right now". It makes it a whole lot easier to leave the house in a morning with a bit of muffin top.
This week's reading: Eat and Run by Scott Jurek.
Scott Jurek won the Western States Endurance Race (a 100mile race, folks) SEVEN consecutive times, having grown up with little interest in running. He is a massively inspirational individual and his book is an absolute joy to read. Very fluid writing style, a nice dose of humour and accessible to anyone with an interest in humans and human behaviour. I love it.
"Every single one of us possesses the strength to attempt something he isn't sure he can accomplish. It can be running a mile, or a 10k race, or 100 miles. It can be changing a career, losing 5 pounds, or telling someone you love her (or him)... A lot of people never do anything great with their lives. A lot of people never attempt it."
Five out of six ain't bad.
Top tune: I cannot seem to get enough of 'Free' by Rudimental. Simple but it does the trick for me.
Love you. x