“Always Trying To Be a Few Pounds Lighter”

Weight can be a pretty tricky issue. Maybe it should be added to the list of things you “don’t talk about” – money, politics, religion, and let’s tack on weight.

Whether you’re overweight or painfully thin, I’d venture to guess that a majority of women are trying to change their weight most of the time. Most remain in a flux of always trying to work out a little more or eat a little less, probably having a least one guilt trip per week of “I shouldn’t have done that.”

Or maybe that’s just me.

Recently, Shawn Johnson (2008 Olympic balance beam champion, won 4 medals total) wrote an article for espnw.com speaking of her weight, stating that even in Beijing she was “always trying to be a few pounds lighter.”

Shawn in the 2008 Olympic beam finals.

At 4’9″, a few pounds can make a huge difference on Shawn’s muscular frame. After the Beijing Olympics, Shawn gained weight form her Olympic form, which seems only natural. Who wouldn’t? However, Shawn was pretty criticized in the media as the “Olympic champion who had let herself go,” particularly during her Dancing With The Stars run. Some gymnastics gossip boards even called her a “nugget,” when speaking of her frame.

Shawn on DWTS. This was a cute cha-cha-cha, by the way. I watched that season.

In reality, Shawn’s muscularity is her gymnastics forte, propelling her to an Amanar vault (yurchenko with 2.5 twists) and a double-double on floor (two flips, two twists in one air time)

Shawn’s blog resonated with me as, although I’m not an elite athlete by any means, I think I’m always trying to be a few pounds lighter. Or study a few hours more. Or run a few more miles. Or work a few hours more. While improvement does come with putting in the hard work and discipline, there is a point in diminishing returns when you over-work, over-train, or become too critical of your diet/exercise. I want to avoid being complacent, but also be proud of my achievements – a tough balance to attain, in my opinion.

Sometimes, I look at my race pictures and cringe a bit, wishing maybe I’d eat one less cupcake every now and then. Or one less piece of chocolate. Or one less piece of cheese. Or not getting full fat dressing with my Just Salad salad.  Wishing I was just a few pounds lighter, like Shawn. I’ve been that way since high school.

“Put Down The Cupcake” or “What Am I Looking At?” or “I don’t care the violet shorts don’t match, they are my favorite.”

In reality, what I should be doing is thanking my body for what it can do. In the picture above, I was about to finish a 5K with about a 1 min and change PR. I’ve run 3 marathons. I can test my mental fortitude on those tempo runs. I can run to the point of throwing up (all too easy for me, apparently). I can walk around New York City. I can play tennis. I could do a round-off, backhandspring, full up until a few years ago.

[This video was from August 2009…I was definitely a few lbs heavier then than I am now and I could still bust this out. I should be thankful that I could do that.]

I’m not exactly sure what you’re supposed to get out of this post. I really wrote it for me, to remind myself that regardless of what I look like, I can still do some pretty cool things. I like eating cupcakes and as long as I don’t approach the diabetic or obese line, I probably shouldn’t torture myself not eating one every now and then. [Don’t worry, I ate one yesterday at my brother’s graduation.]


Until next time…


20 thoughts on ““Always Trying To Be a Few Pounds Lighter”

  1. I think everyone always thinks that they could be lighter. I’ve always struggled with weight and running marathons has really helped me focus on being healthy and thin instead of being skinny. In college, I would drink a Mello Yellow and eat a Pop Tart… and that would be my lunch. Now, I eat a salad filled with nutrients and maybe I’m not as skinny as I was then, but I feel healthier, which is more important.

  2. I read Shawn’s blog after you posted it on twitter, and I thought she gave great insight. I had the same exact feelings standing on the podium at NCAAs, or the starting line at every race in college. I bet the majority of women who participated in sports like gymnastics and running had similar experiences. And btw, that video was pretty cool! That was my dream to be a gymnast, but I was already busy with dance and my parents wouldn’t let me do both.

  3. I always take race photos with a grain of salt. One split second you look great and the next you look fat and flabby.

    Since I’ve started running I’ve grown to appreciate my body more for what it does and less for what the scale says.

    • Definitely agree with Kristy. Race photos are totally random — you can look fast and fantastic or just completely horrible … in the same minute.

      I’m lucky to be in the generally appreciative body image camp. The main thing I care about is whether or not my clothes fit the same way over time, because I most certainly am NOT shelling out more money for clothes in different sizes. 😉

  4. I did read Shawn’s blog and could 100% relate to her. People don’t know how hard it is to live many hours each day in a leotard and not get caught up with body image issues, etc. Gymnasts are only so small because they train so hard, and the “weight gain” that happens after they’re done competing is just them getting used to not training so much and going back to a normal weight. It drives me nuts when they are criticized for that.

    I think as females most of us have some sort of issue with our bodies at one point or another, but it’s how we deal with them that makes a difference, you know? Great post 🙂

  5. I always try to find one part of the picture that I DO like (hey lookit my calves! I love them!) and focus on that – then hope everyone else will, too, instead of my belly after two kids or my wobbly arms as I near 40 🙂 But, imagine if we didn’t care at all? That’d be boring and no fun and I’d probably be big as a house! 😉

  6. thanks for sharing shawn’s blog and post and excellent post urself on this! weight is such a tricky thing because it’s ignorant to say it isn’t a factor at all in your sport. that said, it’s a matter of keeping the ‘head traps’ in check and balancing being 1) healthy enough to complete ur workouts 2) healthfully obtaining a weight that allows u to compete at the level u want 3) but also doing it so that u are happy enough to ENJOY ur workouts AND in life too…u have to be happy in life because in the end that’s wat counts. 🙂

  7. I really enjoyed Shawn’s blog! Thanks for sharing! I think there is a fine line with being an optimal weight for your sport and killing yourself to get there. It is a fact of many sports, gymnastics, figure skating, running…that being lighter IS an advantage.

    I think it is unfortunate that even when Shawn was at her peak during the Olympics she still thought she should be lighter. Also it is only natural when you stop training as hard that you will gain weight unless you severely restrict yourself. Now that she is training hard again it is of course natural that she would lose it both because of all the hours she must train and the fact that to perform at her level you do have to have a certain body type. That is just a fact.

    For someone not competing at the Olympic level (when it isnt necessarily a necessity), it becomes more a matter of desire of how much you want to sacrifice in order to be the best you can be. As long as you are going about it in a healthy manner, I see no problem striving to reach a more optimal weight for your sport. And I see no problem with not really caring (as long as you are a healthy weight) about reaching that optimal weight.

  8. This is a fantastic post! I read Shawn’s article too and I can absolutely appreciate those feelings. Thank you for posting this. It’s hard to be this honest but so many of us can relate.

  9. This is a fantastic post! I read Shawn’s article and I can appreciate the way she feels. Thank you for this post. It is hard to be this honest about something so sensitive but so many of us can relate to everything you said.

  10. YEP. I think it’s becuase if you’re into running, chances are you’re a competitive person.

    We’re always trying to beat a PR, run “this many” races, etc.. That competitive (or perfectionist) mentality spills over into other aspects of our lives too – not just the sport! Weight has both an aesthetic appeal (those appalling race photos that I hate :/) AND has a physical appeal (if I’m lighter, I’m faster!), so it’s tough to ignore the thoughts.

    I am always trying to work on a balance…it’s nice to know I’m not alone! I’m trying to be like, “hey, legs, it’s okay you look like Jimmy Deans, you did some pretty bitchin’ things out there today.”

  11. I love love love this post. And because I can relate to it in every are of my life. Could focus more at work, could be a better friend, would be a better daughter, could run harder at races. It’s enough to make you insane.

    Anyways, thank you for writing this. It really resonated with me 🙂

  12. I feel like I am comfortable, but will always have to work to maintain a level of comfort. I’ll look at photos of myself, hate them and wish I did more, yet it really shouldn’t matter. Outside of body image, I find I am competitive, but can get distracted easily. I always need to remind myself to focus on one thing at a time if I want to do more.

  13. I’m usually in the appreciative camp even if I’m not happy with pics. I don’t often have food regrets, but I do often tell myself I could stand to do a couple hundred crunches once in a while and maybe give my 5 pound dumbbells a break from being door stoppers…

    I think you look great in that pic. I’ve been caught at much more unflattering angles. Last month’s Country Music Half was the first race in which I’ve contemplated buying a photo!

  14. Loved Shawn’s post & yours. This is a common theme among many groups, runners most definitely. I appreciate my body, but have a fast metabolism. I indulge in junk food daily but also eat a lot of fruits/veggies/whole grains. I hope i will always remain positive about my body but time will tell! This was a wonderful and courageous post. Love seeing some discussion from others on here.

  15. thanks so much for this post! i know i’m currently looking to be a few pounds lighter, but only because it will make me healthier. I would like to be a strong runner who can enjoy favorite foods because i work it out 🙂 you are BEAUTIFUL. also need a pair of the violet rogas ASAP.

  16. Ohh well stated one of the topics we aren’t supposed to really talk about!! I think that this is something I struggle with every few months…but it usually crops up when I haven’t been eating as clean. So I am beginnning to realize that the better I treat my body the better i feel even if my weight hasn’t changed.

  17. I really liked this post and can definitely sympathize with it. I go to a college where most of the girls are very thin and well dressed and put together all the time, and none of those words really describe me. My makeup routine consists of face wash and chapstick and I wear running clothes to class at least once a week. Sometimes I feel like, if I were thinner, it would be more okay that I don’t put that much effort into my appearance, and I wouldn’t have to constantly compare my general lack of style to how magazine-ready all the girls around me look. And I definitely have occasional moments when, having just eaten a cookie or a bowl of macaroni and cheese, I’ll feel like I shouldn’t have.
    But you’re right that a body is worth so much more than the size pants you can fit on it. Everyone looks at pictures of themselves and sees ways they could look different (I think you look like a champion in your photo, by the way), but it’s more important to think about what’s HAPPENING in that picture. You’re racing your way to a PR, Shawn is competing in the Olympics! Things like that are incredible achievements, and it’s our bodies that get us there. I definitely have moments when I wish that I looked a certain way, but at the end of the day, even if I were five pounds thinner, the satisfaction I’d get from that would be much less than what I’d get from a killer workout or a PR. Whatever we look like, it’s what we can do that matters

  18. Wow. Thank you for this post! I think you look great in the running photo, and wow loved the gymnastics video! Amazing! I have really struggled with this self-image thing my whole life. I am twenty yrs old now, and every day I am trying to cut out a bit more food, and some days it works and others it doesn’t. Always trying to lose some weight. The only time I was really happy with myself was three years ago when I weighed below 120, and I was eating very little, and I had such low body fat that I lost my period for a year. I was so skinny. We are sold messages by the media that we need to be thinner, and I think we need to remember that we need to find our happy today. Not in twenty pounds. Not when we wear a size six. Today. We need to be able to enjoy today, and be thankful for the things our body can do today. Thanks for this blog. It helped this girl feel a little better about herself.

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