I am the old skinny

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I realize I am (as usual) late to the conversation, but this has been swimming around in my head for years and the recent paleosphere’s discussion on body image made me need to attempt to write it down.

I am the old skinny (skinny); I am not the new skinny (strong).

I will start this post by saying I am a little down on myself right now because it has been months since I have worked out with any regularity. Thin people can have body image struggles too.

I have always been skinny. It’s certainly genetic in my case; my sister, mom, dad, and grandparents are all thin. I know many people come to eat clean because they are struggling with weight, so my perspective is a little different.

I came to paleo from Crossfit. I am not good at Crossfit. In fact, I am not a good athlete in general. I am mediocre at several things (climbing, swimming, horseback riding) and horrible at the rest (in particular, anything that requires coordination and/or flexibility). When we moved to Flagstaff and joined the Crossfit here after several months off, it was a strange experience. On one hand, it was great to challenge myself. I worked so hard at it. I achieved several “firsts”: handstand, pull up, double under. On the other hand, I was a weak, skinny girl in a gym full of people stronger than me. I never got that warm, fuzzy, family feeling like I had felt at Oregon Crossfit (where I moved from). When it came time to team up for a workout, I was always left standing alone, and would have to have the coach count for me. Then there were the awkward before and after class times, when I tried and failed to smile and make conversation. I can’t speak for the people there as to why they didn’t include me, maybe I am a giant asshole in person, but I always felt like it was because I was the old skinny in a gym full of strong girls. I rarely put more than 5-10 pounds on my bar, not because I didn’t want to get big- I would love to be big and strong- but because that was my max weight without hurting myself. I was always the lightest weight on the board, and frequently the slowest time. In fact, I would often lift just the bar, and when it came to the gymnastics, I was an awkward mess.

I guess I am just trying to get another perspective out there. “Strong” is not an option for me. I will never be what most people consider strong. I hope to be healthy. This is particularly relevant to me right now. I haven’t worked out in a gym since July, because that is when I got sick. Even once I was feeling better, I couldn’t afford to go back to Crossfit. Now, with TDL almost done with school, I may have the opportunity to join again. So I am getting ready to confront the old skinny again.

I really wish we could all just have the goal of having fun, being healthy, and working toward our own individual goals. I really wish it didn’t have to be about superficial things, like being skinny or strong. But I guess that wouldn’t make a very interesting T-shirt.

**UPDATE: This is not a blog about Crossfit.  This is a forum for me to blather about my feelings.  Obviously I need to make a couple clarifications, because not everyone  understood what I was trying to say:

1.  This is NOT an attack on Crossfit Flagstaff (CFF). As the grown-up version of a kid who was always picked last (and picked on) and never made the team, I am a bit sensitive in athletic settings.  I certainly was an outsider at CFF, but I do not blame anyone there for that.  I was just stating how it made me feel.  CFF is filled with great people.

2.  If a girl who spent her life wanting to be thin because the media, etc. told her that was the way a woman should look came out with a blog post that said, “I will never be skinny, I hope to be healthy,” that would be applauded.  When I do the exact same thing (I always wanted to be strong and athletic and say in my post, “I will never be what most people consider to be strong.  I hope to be healthy.”) it is perceived as sad.  Why?  I wanted to add in my view because we never hear from the skinny, un-athletic people in this body image discussion and, when it comes down to it, we all are going through the same thing.  If you read the majority of the comments, they are from people who get it, who understand that I hoped to unify, not whine, in this post.

3.  I am strong in my own ways.  I know that.  Shit, I started by talking about all the accomplishes I made during my time at CFF.  Crossfit made me mentally stronger, made me able to look the flinch in the eyes and flip it off.  I love my body.  But there are always buts.  We all have these moments where we wish we were stronger, bigger, faster, prettier, thinner, smarter, whatever.  I just wanted to reiterate that we ALL have those feelings, no matter how skinny, strong, fast, whatever we actually are.

4.  The problem with writing a blog post is that it is left open to interpretation.  I can see how this was misinterpreted and for that I am sorry.  Maybe my next post will be “I am a bad writer.”  I am kidding.

5.  Anyway, thanks for reading.  I hope this contributed in some way to the conversation, rather than detracting from it.  In real life, I am a goofy, dorky, happy, skinny chick who just wants to enjoy life and I am sorry that I may have portrayed myself as otherwise.  I love you all.

(I did a follow up post here.)

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38 Responses to I am the old skinny

  1. Rebecca says:

    I’m right there with you on the idea that t-shirt slogans should not be dictating notions/indicators of health. I can’t stand the “X is the new Y” mantras. I’m one of the “strong” gals but I want to punch any person (usually a woman) that calls me a “beast” even though it’s meant as some kind of compliment. I’d much prefer someone pay attention to their own workout, not mine but if it’s a competition or the like what ever happened to “great job”?
    Workouts should be challenging while not being harmful — if your 5-10 lbs on the bar achieve that for you, then you are doing it right. Sounds like that CF box just isn’t a good fit. Another reason to come to CA…

  2. Amy says:

    I feel a little sad as I read this, and wish I had something insightful to add to the conversation. Mostly I find myself thinking about how my 5-year-old looks in the mirror at her nekkid self with so much delight, and how I wish I had a magic wand to make that a forever thing for her… knowing all too well that far too soon, the mirror will be her enemy. xoxo Amy

    • That is very insightful, Amy! What happens to that 5-year-old unselfconscious self? Maybe that is why the paleo world focuses on play so much- nothing makes me feel more comfortable about my body than running around outside like a little kid.

  3. You know, I’ve been skinny all my life, but not always in shape. I’ve just started working out regularly again and someone said to me: “You know, you’re a skinny, little fat girl.” And I knew just what she meant as my chicken legs shook violently when trying to do pilates! Take it in stride and just focus on health and fun. Thanks for sharing! x

    • Good on you for taking it in stride Laura! We’re all trying to better ourselves in some way and I think we all just have to take everyone else, and ourselves, where we are. Thanks for commenting!

  4. inkblotjo says:

    THANK YOU for saying this. As easily the smallest athlete at my own CrossFit gym, I absolutely sympathize. Sometimes it’s a little ego-bruising to see women walk in, finish their on-ramp and throw more weight on the bar than I could hope to lift in the next year. We have a culture that’s learning not to disparage larger individuals, that’s promoting strength in lieu of forced, unnatural thinness, which is all good. But sometimes it irks me that people are not nearly as conscious of the insecurities that skinny women experience as well.

  5. Kathleen says:

    “I really wish we could all just have the goal of having fun, being healthy, and working toward our own individual goals.”
    This quote resonnoates with me the most. A “friend” and i signed up to do HER first half marathon. I’ve done several. Mind you I’m not the fastest but I do them to reach a goal, train and just have fun. She is super competetive and much faster than I am. We now can’t train together because I find myself being pushed well above my limits and enough that I could injury myself. It has sucked all the joy out of this race. I’ll be happy to be done, just do my own thing and enjoy the fact that I’m healthy and can move around and do these things.
    I’m also sad that you had such a bad experience at your new box. I love our Crossfit box and the people are so friendly I wouldn’t dream of not welcoming a new person.
    Hugs to you, do your own thing, work on the things that are important to you and be healthy.

    • Thanks Kathleen! That’s a bummer about your friend and the race. As a not very competitive person, I will never understand what happens when the switch flips from fun to competitive craziness. Oh well! Thanks so much for reading!

  6. saretta says:

    I would buy an “I Am the Old Skinny” tshirt in a heartbeat! Not only am I edging toward the “old” end of life, but I, like you, am a skinny and weak type. I love lifting weights and feel oh-so-strong compared to the way I used to be, but actually succeed in doing a pull-up?! Well, I keep trying and that’s what’s important to me. 😉

  7. Erica says:

    Found your post through the facevine – glad I did. You really captured how I have felt in nearly all sports except distance running and cycling. Even in those, I’m not terribly confident. Our culture idolizes certain aspects of a woman’s body, and our culture idolizes idols – who wouldn’t love to be a standout in their sport, or even in their gym? I’d get a real charge out of that for sure. But alas, I’ve got a bad case of the scrawny. Thanks for writing this. It’s nice to hear there are many folks like us out there.

    • Yeah, that would feel amazing! I love “a bad case of the scrawny”! Boy do I feel you! Thanks for reading and commenting. Knowing I am not alone has made putting this post (and myself) out there well worth my fears that people would take what I was saying the wrong way.

  8. Veronica says:

    Don’t sell yourself short! You can be a stronger you! You can do a pullup! You just have to set a goal, actually a lot of little goals on your way to the big goal, and don’t stop until you get there!

  9. loretta says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. I am a strong girl who still struggles with extra body fat, and your story is a great reminder for me that we are ALL struggling with something. I’m so sorry you had such a negative experience in your CF gym, and I hope you find a place that is more welcoming. Remember that strong is relative, and if what you can safely lift is the bar then that is your strong. Anyone who tries to tell you otherwise isn’t worth your time!

  10. I’m a livestock farmer who feeds a lot of paleo xfitters and I’m often (secretly) hurt by their judgemental comments on my body composition. I eat cleaner than most people could ever hope to and am powerfully strong for a woman, thanks to my occupation. I am extremely flexible thanks to twenty years of regular yoga. I am also fat. I have thighs, ass & big boobs. But I am also very healthy and that’s the only thing that counts anymore. Consider those attitudes as a litmus test to those whom you want to devote your forgiveness to instead of your energy and attention. I’ve been eating paleo for two years now and have gradually decreased my weight. When people tell me I’m getting “skinny”, I tell them that I am NOT getting skinny, I’m getting healthy. That same attitude will also work for you. Don’t give up, even when people be hating.

  11. tuffmama says:

    I admire your innerstrength and courage for even stepping into the CrossFit world. I have found that I have a major hurdle (a mix of low self confidence and hurtful memories) that keep me from “subjecting” myself to Xfit or any like group. I have a lot of fitness goals! I need to make peace with the unathletic, uncoordinated, shy kid that never “made” the team during my school years. That is not who I am now! I know that but if I bucked up and finally joined a Xfit group and had an experience like you had in Flagstaff- well- I just cringe at the thought.

    • Yes! I too was that kid- picked last and everything 🙂 Those memories do come back and probably make me a little more sensitive and more reluctant to join a group in my athletic pursuits. Thanks so much for commenting and cheers to no longer being our younger, un-athletic selves!

  12. Lauren says:

    I wish for you, a good and friendly box when you join again. A box that is as fierce for you as you are inside. THAT is strong.

  13. Kitty says:

    I loved reading this. Great point of view! I myself have always struggled with “fitting-in”. I see the CF ‘click’ at my gym too and it kind of pisses me off. I’m not the only one that seems to always be outside the “circle”, however. And I’m not there for them or to live up to their standards. There’s a certain group, trainers in included (not all of them), that seem to always gravitate to each other and brag about PR’s, max weights, or say things like “oh I’m so disappointed in myself I can only back squat 1,000lbs.” while talking loud like they’re the only people in the room. I think it’s too bad. I feel as though the elites are always separating themselves from the average Joe’s and Jane’s and that’s where I thought CF was different. I’m diffferent. You’re different. And I refuse to be the same and compare myself to the elite CrossFitters at my box. It’s still MY box too.

    • Great comment, Kitty! This has been so great, for me to realize I am not the only one who feels a little bit like an outsider. I will definitely keep your words in mind when I go back to the box. Thank you for commenting, I am soaking up your strength!

  14. Robin Moore says:

    Crossfit is about me. How I get strong, how I eat healthy. How I build stamina. It has nothing to do with the guy or gal next to me and what they do. People have to get past the competition aspect of Crossfit when it comes to others. If 5-10 pounds is all you can do on the bar, do it as best as you can. They’re are alot of people who compete in the Open, sadly even more don’t and it’s because they don’t think they are as strong as the next person, or as fast. That is the goals of Crossfit. It’s about you and you only, your healthy, your strength.And ONLY you can determine what they is and what that looks like. As much as I sypathize with your statement about how other people make you feel, you need to get past what others think, and do your work. I have been in my box for 4 years, I am the biggest guy in my box (height and weight) and one of the weakest. I haven’t done a legit pull-up in those 4 years, not so easy at 285#. I don’t care that there are guys in my box who can do 50 unbroken pull-ups, or 40 unbroken double-unders and you want to know why? They don’t have my life, my age, my height, my weight, my problems, my goals, my genetics. It’s different for everyone, strength, stamina,health, body type, were all different. And as much as people in your box need to get past what strength should look like to you, you need to get past what they look like and concentrate on your path to a healthy lifestyle. I think you go to my box, and when you’re ready, come in and look for the tallest guy and we’ll get healthy together, no judging, no ego’s, just health I promise.

    • Robin Moore says:

      I meant “that is not the goals of Crossfit.”

    • Thanks for commenting, Robin. I like your positive attitude! I guess I was more trying to comment on the general perception by society on what women should look like, with my specific experience serving as an example. Whatever, I totally agree with you: we all need to just worry about ourselves! I wish it was always that easy, but I am definitely a work in progress :). I would love to work out with you, anytime!

  15. Joel Barnett says:

    I’m sorry you didn’t get the a warm, fuzzy feeling at CFF. I have been to other gyms and had that same feeling, and tried to always give people that warm fuzzy feeling at CrossFit Flagstaff. I hope you will come back at some point and try again. Feel free to track down Robin “Big Dog” Moore or me when you come back. And please tell TDL I miss seeing him around the gym too. It was always a pleasure chatting with and working out with him.

    • Joel Barnett says:

      Oh, and why did it take me so long to find your blog? I’m totally making some of your recipes…

    • Thanks, Joel! I know TDL misses CFF a ton and will be back soon (if we stay in Flag). I too will be back- there definitely are great people there, I just always felt like an outsider. I guess I also had high expectations: I really hoped to make friends at the box, because for me, exercise is more about having fun than anything else! Thanks so much for commenting and let me know if you try any of the recipes!

  16. Stephanie. I am sorry you had the experience at CrossFit Flagstaff that you have shared here. That is certainly not the environment we wish to cultivate at CF Flagstaff and it is not a perspective that has ever been shared with me about it before. I would like to invite you back, and invite you to realize that we ALL struggle with perspective on what people are thinking of us, what we “should” be lifting, what we “should” look like, etc. I know there were others in the gym who looked at you with envy, wishing they could be thinner and strong like you are. Isn’t that interesting?

    You made such GREAT gains during the short time you were at the gym, and I was so incredibly proud of you for the accomplishments you had and the heart and work you diligently put into your developments. You seemed so excited about everything, that reading your post deeply surprised and saddened me at how terribly I misread your response to CF and the gym. I apologize that you were made to feel like an outsider and that you read the gym environment to be one where we were more concerned about image and weight than we are about having fun, being healthy, and enjoying our lives.

    All of that aside, it’s important that you ultimately realize that perspective on strong is per individual. Strong is relative. Strong is physical, but it’s also psychological, and that too is relative to each individual. You have to believe in your own strength and believe that every thing you do makes you stronger. It is my job to help you realize that, and I obviously failed you, and maybe others. Be strong for YOU, Stephanie. Be proud of the strength you already have and of the strength you gained through the efforts you made, be proud of the strength you WILL have, no matter what you choose to do to earn it.

    Live life passionately. Live with pride in what and who you are. That is strength.

    • Hi Lisa. Thanks for reading and commenting. This was certainly not meant to be an attack on anything you are doing at CFF. I stopped going because I got sick, and then could not afford to come back. If we stay in Flagstaff, I will certainly be back! I added a bit to the post because it was being a little misinterpreted. Maybe that will clarify. I hope all is well with you!

  17. I understand, Stephanie. Thank you for clarifying. Best wishes to you and Todd. You are missed!

  18. Joy at The Liberated Kitchen says:

    I totally understand what you mean. I think it is awesome that you continue to put yourself out there and enjoy crossfit even if you aren’t the strongest in the gym and don’t expect to ever be. We don’t have to be perfect to enjoy our bodies, be a part of our community, and do things that support our health. Thanks for sharing your post on my blog!

    • Thanks for commenting, Joy, and thank you for your post! I think inclusiveness is where we need to go in this real food community and so I appreciate you calling out comments that (probably unintentionally) exclude some of us.

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