What I learned when I stopped working out.

What I learned when I stopped working out. | La Vie en Orange http://korijock.com

I've been thinking about bodies and body image for as long as I've been making undies for people that aren't me.

Why are some people shaped one way and others another way? How can two people who weigh the same be shaped so differently? How do some people carry their weight distributed so evenly, while for others, it's very concentrated? How are people shaped so differently?

But it wasn't until I stopped working out that things really started to make sense. Which is weird. Except it isn't.

I've always been shaped like a string bean. I'm 5'10" and since high school, I've mostly weighed 135 pounds. For most of my life, I've worked hard to be strong and keep weight on, because then loved ones who haven't seen me in a long time and attentive medical professionals don't question if I'm eating enough (and not in the jokey "put some meat on your bones" way, but in the "I'm worried about you" way).

I high jumped on my college track team, and have been running mostly seriously since I was a teenager. I've squatted 365 pounds, trained for a half-marathon, and was part of a running club for a couple of years.

Then, when I started my business, I gave up working out enough to not get injured (not exactly what I planned...). There were only so many hours in the day, and while I started LVEO in 2011, my muscle kept me safe until 2013 when I screwed my back up. That's when I pretty much stopped exercising regularly.

By this winter, I was in the worst shape of my life. I got super sick in January of this year and was down to 117 pounds, a number I hadn't seen since high school. All my clothes hung off me and just made me sad to put on.

But the weird thing was, when I'd been this size in high school, people worried I might be anorexic or bulimic, but now, people just assumed I was healthier than them. Which couldn't have been further from the truth. I wasn't eating great. I wasn't getting exercise. I was just small. 

But people, strangers even, made assumptions about me and my health and my level of activity that were wrong. Maybe I didn't notice it before because those assumptions were correct, but this winter I started to pay a lot of attention.

There was the client assuming I have a great diet (wasn't true when she casually mentioned it). A stranger on a group hike saying something about how strong I was (when I'd never been weaker)...

And when I started to work out again this summer to get ready for a 25k race, well, that's when I started to notice all the people who weren't shaped at all like me (tall and/or slender) who were in waaaaaay better shape than me.

And it's all been marinating ever since.

I think that before I got sick this winter I had a much narrower idea about "health." 

As an adult, I'd been working out so much, I assumed that that was why my body was the shape it was. But take away the diet and exercise and I still fit most of society's beauty norms?!? That's pretty effed for people who don't have similar metabolisms/genetic whatever.

Thin doesn't equal healthy or better and curves, fatty, and different shapes don't equal unhealthy or less/worse.

Here's where I landed. Without taking into account medical conditions, or other limitations, I think that most people are probably just whatever shape they are. And that while some people's weights are pretty fluid, some just aren't. And it's ok. It has to be ok, because if it's not then people are just supposed to hate themselves for something that's out of their control? No way. Eff those beauty standards. That's not a world I want to live in.

And hopefully you're healthy and active (however makes your heart sing), but it doesn't (or shouldn't) matter what your stasis is. I just want everyone to be joyful, healthy, and have their needs met.

You're you. And that's perfection.

I don't want to live in a world where people are starving or hurting themselves or denying themselves simple pleasures (like my beloved cookie dough) because society's notion of "what is beautiful" or "what is handsome" is racist, sizeist, ableist, sexist, and unattainable for so. many. people.

I understand proportions and the golden rule and the idea that "what is beautiful" is partially mathematic and even biological on some level, but society's beauty norms are also defined by zeitgeist and now, capitalism, and dammit, isn't it time that we stop telling people they aren't enough?!?

We each have the power to train ourselves to stop policing our bodies, our friends' bodies, strangers' bodies. To let brands we like know we'd love to see more diverse models (P.S. LVEO is working on a new photoshoot and it's going to be so much fun. I can't wait for you to meet our new girls!).

This is how culture changes:  one reframed negative thought at a time, one tweet or letter to an executive at a time. Until it's more than just reframed thoughts and tweets. It's brands and magazines and runways paying attention. It's little kids never even starting to hate their bodies.

And I know that I benefit from thin privilege and largely fitting society's beauty norms (white, tall, and thin). But that doesn't mean I endorse them. I also know that, categorically, I am not prettier than anyone, or healthier than anyone or in better shape than anyone simply because of those things.

And I choose to celebrate other standards and work towards more inclusive standards.

I know that in some ways, the idea of fashion was created to be exclusive, but no one loses when everyone feels good about themselves. And we all have a stake in that.

So where do you land? Please comment below to join the conversation! I can't wait to hear your thoughts :)

P.S. Have you ever searched #EffYourBeautyStandards? It's one of my favorite things to do right now here on Twitter and here on Instagram.


3 Responses

Emily Jo
Emily Jo

August 06, 2016

Thanks for this beautifully written piece!


May 16, 2016

Thank you so much, Marci! I love working out with you too. It means so much to me too that we focus on all the good and take ourselves seriously enough to get sh*t done, but not so seriously that we can’t howl when we’re completely uncoordinated. :)


May 16, 2016

Fantastic insight! Since I’ve been back in the gym, I can feel the other people in the gym’s discontent rolling off themselves. It is sort of sad. That’s why I love working out with you so much, because we just laugh when we nearly fall off the balance ball or snort during board crunches and are pleased as punch when we see improvement and strength building. Time to stop paying so much attention to how our bodies fail us and focus on where our bodies come through for us. In so many ways. Thanks for writing this!

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.

August 13, 2015


Size Chart