Sunday, June 10, 2012

Spread It.



I started running in eighth grade. About a mile at a time, a few times a week. I had tried before but I could never make it up the hill in front of our house. But one day I just decided, I don’t care how slow I go, I’m going to run the whole way. If I go really slow, I can do it. And I did.

That was also when I started to lose some of my chub. At the time I never even noticed—I was just interested in running because it was healthy. Mostly I just didn’t didn’t want to be that kid who couldn’t make it through five laps of the pacer test in gym class. I ate whatever, maybe I ran, I was totally comfortable with my body. I was pleased when people told me I was skinny, because I knew it was true. And I was proud of it. I was changing my body for the better.

Last time I wrote about the ways other people influenced my body image…but what about the ways I influenced other people? I walk talking to my sister just yesterday when the subject came about. She told me that when I started running and getting fit, she just assumed that the same thing would happen to her in two years. And then, when it didn’t, she figured she’d give it another year.

I can see now what a danger there was in that situation. She was excited at the thought of being skinny like me, wanted to be like me. This was before even I had noticed I was getting thinner, and my little sister was already thinking about it.

What if, when she didn’t turn into a mini-me, she had gone to extreme measures? She could have easily gone down the eating disorder road trying to make herself fit what she thought was “normal,” and I would have been responsible. But thankfully she is my exact opposite, much saner, and eats whatever she feels like eating, whenever she feels like eating it. And it totally works for her, and I’m so glad. (And more than a little jealous.)

I have some friends that have had complicated relationships with food and exercise, relationships that changed at I hung out with them more. Looking back now, I can’t help wondering if maybe being around me rubbed off a little, made them more self-conscious about their bodies, encouraged them to run and watch what they ate and run some more.

I hate to think that I could have caused anyone the same kind of problems I’ve caused myself. If I’d stopped to look at it that way, I may never have let myself go so far.

The point is, everything we do influences someone, whether they look up to us or down on us, whether they want to be like us or want to be our exact opposite. When your parents tell you to set a good example for your younger siblings, that applies to all things in life. We learn by example. So for your kids, your siblings, your friends—who knows, maybe even your parents—treat yourself right. Be healthy. It’s one contagion we can afford to spread.
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