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Skinny Shaming

Skinny shaming is the name, not cool is the game. A few weeks ago I was announced as one of Women’s Running Magazine’s newest bloggers. I was excited to partner with them and be able to share my journey as a professional runner, new mom, coach, and business owner. It was to be a “transparent” series where I share parts of my journey that some women are afraid to talk about. Open, honest and realistic. My first blog was released along with a picture of me in my Oiselle uniform. Hours later a few comments were left on a FB page that read as followed: “This picture is sick and you are destroying your body. She is not a role model for women and our young girls.” Ouch!

Skinny Shaming photo from the back

Skinny Shaming photo from the back

Social media is a tricky platform. In some ways it allows us to connect with strangers, share our stories, and stay abreast with the latest news. In other ways it’s a shield for us to hide behind and criticize strangers, tear people down without having to be present in human form. Imagine some of the things you have posted or read other’s post and tell me whether you’d have the courage or balls to say that to a person’s face? My guess is not a chance. Well the comments I received did in fact hurt. We’re all human beings behind those computer screens with feelings. Looking at a picture and deciding to judge a person’s character based on that photo I feel is wrong.  I believe we are all entitled to opinions but being openly critical of someone without knowing them I feel is wrong and mean.

A picture of me 5 days before the above shot. Proving different angles of pictures can portray certain images.

A picture of me 5 days before the above shot. Proving different angles of pictures can portray certain images.

 

In an attempt to defend myself in a situation that doesn’t really deserve a defense I will explain why I feel being a skinny athlete isn’t a bad thing and should not be criticized. How you look and how you live are two very different things. I run for a living, so that means training at a very high level and being fit is what my job is all about. It is not about my appearance of skinniness that is just a product of the environment in which I operate in. I don’t count my daily caloric intake but am very aware it is a massive intake compared to the sedentary person. If my intake didn’t match my energy output I would be constantly losing weight and most likely not be getting my menstrual cycle. A few months ago I wrote a blog about weight and periods as a female athlete in our sport. I shared my personal story and received so much positive feedback. I had several people comment “what a great role model, every highschool girl should read this.” That was my intention. To show young girls who run it’s not about how fast you run, it’s about doing it while maintaining a healthy female system and positive body image of yourself. Yet on my Women’s Running blog I was the one shamed for being skinny and not a role model. My definition of healthiness as a female runner is preserving your fertility by getting a regular period and protecting your bones. I’ve gotten my period every month for the last 5 years and recently given birth to a 9 lb baby. Yeah I’m skinny, but most importantly I’m healthy, I work hard to be, and I’m damn proud of it.

Special thanks to some friends of mine who encouraged me to share how I felt.

Dream Big

Steph

79 Comments

  • Twins Run

    18.12.2014 at 13:31 Reply

    Thank you!

    • Rick Ryan

      19.12.2014 at 10:24 Reply

      I think you look fantastic! in all the photos 🙂

    • Ben & Steph

      21.12.2014 at 08:52 Reply

      Thank you, appreciate you reading!

  • Jenn @ foxrunsfast.com

    18.12.2014 at 13:53 Reply

    Thank you for this, Stephanie. While I’m not a professional athlete, I’m a mom of two who is a passionate runner and fitness enthusiast. I recently became certified to teach group weightlifting (BodyPump) and was teased/shamed throughout the certification process for being very thin. I, like you, work hard to eat right and eat enough to support my body and I get my period each and every month. Because I run as much as I do, eat well and lift weights, I tend to be pretty lean. But it hurts just as much for someone to say I’m “too thin” or to tell me they didn’t think I could do an exercise because I am “so scrawny”. We shouldn’t criticize someone for looking a certain way – whether that’s fat OR thin. Thank you for your honest post. Keep doing what you are doing – you are a wonderful role model for many!

    • Ben & Steph

      21.12.2014 at 08:54 Reply

      Jenn, Go you for being a busy mom and passionate about running. Yes it is a shame to be criticized so just keep being confident in what you do and positive energy should rub off on people.

  • cherylann

    18.12.2014 at 18:21 Reply

    Thank you! I am 61 and have been a distance runner AND skinny since I was in my teens. Add that I have long (skinny) arms and my “look” is accentuated. I get “skinny” remarks all the time at work. I weigh 127-130 but don’t have a scale as I don’t obsess about my weight. I just happen to eat when I am hungry and not put junk in my body. My tummy looks like yours when I relax…and I even have a burn scar in about the same place! (I was baking cookies….!) Thanks for being so brave! Don’t let others dictate what you should do/weigh. It really becomes easier as you get older…

    • Ben & Steph

      21.12.2014 at 08:55 Reply

      Thanks Cheryl really appreciate you sharing your experiences and following along the blog.

  • Diane Supanich

    18.12.2014 at 18:51 Reply

    Stephanie, you look amazing! Everybody would love to look like you and myself, would love to be able to run 1/16th of your speed. I met you two yrs ago at a running camp in Flagstaff and I must say your personality shines even brighter than the summer sun in my book!

    • Ben & Steph

      21.12.2014 at 08:56 Reply

      Diane, thanks for the comments. Come back to Flagstaff in the future and get in touch with us if you do!

  • Stephanie Pendrys

    18.12.2014 at 19:30 Reply

    Stephanie,

    Thank you so much for having the courage to write something like this. Similar to the other women that have commented, I’m a runner with a slender build. A runner who eats more than my boyfriend does and has never had any medical problems due to my weight. From being called a “skinny bitch” at a bar to watching doctors casually check behind my teeth during a routine college sports physical to make sure that throwing up my meals isn’t one of my favorite hobbies, I’ve heard comments about my weight for years and have found it difficult to express my hurt feelings in a way for others to understand. Why is it that calling someone overweight or obese is an insult of the worst degree but telling someone to go eat a cheeseburger or two is socially acceptable? Again, thank you.

    • RM

      19.12.2014 at 06:04 Reply

      WHOA. I think your question sort of answers itself, and sort of proves everything I said below about privilege and talking about other people’s bodies.

    • Ben & Steph

      21.12.2014 at 08:59 Reply

      Thanks Stephanie. It is sad when strangers can judge whether you’re healthy or not based on your appearance. I appreciate you reading and sharing your experiences.

  • Rachel Iseler

    18.12.2014 at 19:47 Reply

    My first thought of that pic is , that’s a runner with awesome goals & determination. I began following you on IG a few months back, all because of what an amazing role model you are. I saw a pic of you on Oiselle IG & I loved it. As a mother & a runner I’ve definetly had insecurities about my body, mostly my stomach. You have the confidence & body I wish I had postpartum, …. You are an amazing runner, mom & role model.

    • Ben & Steph

      21.12.2014 at 09:02 Reply

      Rachel, IG the gateway:) Thanks for following along and be confident in your body no matter HOW it looks!

  • AnnMarie Kirkpatrick

    18.12.2014 at 20:04 Reply

    Great message! Thanks for sharing. One of the worst things to happen to healthy, skinny women everywhere was the rise to popularity of “All About that Bass”. Ugh.

    • Norma

      19.12.2014 at 17:11 Reply

      Thank you! I’ve said that so many times and gotten “you’re crazy” looks from everyone around me.

      If it’s not okay to say “fat bitch” it’s also not okay to say “skinny bitch.”

      • Ben & Steph

        21.12.2014 at 09:46 Reply

        Thanks Norma. It’s not ok to say any of that so hopefully we all get to a point where we are encouraging and uplifting to one another.

    • Ben & Steph

      21.12.2014 at 09:04 Reply

      Great reference to the song, thanks AnnMarie!

  • Margaret Fahl

    18.12.2014 at 23:02 Reply

    Well said Steph. You are the epitomy of healthy and strong and…I’ve seen ya eat! ; ) Your passion and honesty about addressing real and very important issues for women is commendable. Your voice reaches from teen girls to women well beyond your age. You are respected broadly because your integrity honesty and intelligence as a person matches your level of running. As a mother of three who is also a thin, it has been your speaking out and photo sharing that has finally encouraged me to be proud of my thin and fit body INCLUDING permanent stretch marks and loose skin from the baby years. What a personal freedom to arrive at after years of self shame and embarrassment. Anyone who would judge you or anyone based on a photo, in my opinion, is struggling with their own insecurity. Rock on Steph- you are one awesome role model! Thank you.

    • Ben & Steph

      21.12.2014 at 09:05 Reply

      Thanks Margaret, means a lot. Free those stretch marks girl!

  • Jocelyn S

    19.12.2014 at 05:28 Reply

    Ugh.

    I can’t stand how people jump straight to eating disorder if someone is skinny. Honestly…SOME PEOPLE JUST ARE. They can’t help it. It does not mean they don’t eat or have an obsession for being skinny. On the flip side, some people just are not skinny. They can’t necessarily help that either. I eat right and exercise more now than ever before…but my body is what it is. I’ve had two kids and my belly is a little poochy. I have chubby legs and knees..I just do. Living a healthy lifestyle and body acceptance is what the conversation should be about. When you don’t know someone, you shouldn’t judge them…on any topic for any reason.

    Head up, wings out, Steph!

    • Ben & Steph

      21.12.2014 at 09:07 Reply

      Yeah Jocelyn, what you said! It doesn’t matter what we have going on, on the outside but we are healthy on the inside. No judgements. Thanks for commenting.

  • RM

    19.12.2014 at 05:31 Reply

    UGH. There is no wrong way to have a body, and I certainly think that body shaming and people being crappy about your body is … crappy. BUT, can we stop with the concept of skinny shaming and talk a little bit about bodies and privilege? Plenty of people have said it better than I will, but certain bodies, usually white, usually more than middle class, usually thin, usually male, have privilege and certain bodies don’t. If we contextualize this conversation in the idea that it’s about people believing they own women’s bodies and have the right to say shit about them, no matter whether they are skinny or fat or somewhere in between, we can have a better conversation.
    The first place to start would be thinking about the ways in which having a thin body is privileged in society. Here’s one place to start:
    http://everydayfeminism.com/2012/11/20-examples-of-thin-privilege/

    This is a feminist issue, and the minute we start understanding that “skinny shaming” is basically the new “reverse racism” we can have a smarter conversation. The real issue is the belief that women’s bodies just — simply put — don’t belong to them.

    • Sarah

      19.12.2014 at 09:41 Reply

      Thank you for expressing this so clearly. Were the people who made negative remarks about Stephanie’s body cruel and completely out of line? Absolutely. Are these sorts of negative remarks equal to the systemic discrimination, shaming, and harassment that people with fat bodies experience? Nope. Again, doesn’t mean it’s okay— and the two patterns are related. As you say, “It’s about people believing they own women’s bodies and have the right to say shit about them.” But hand-wringing by thin people who have experienced cruel remarks without any acknowledgement of the enormous social privilege that comes with having a thin body always registers as self-indulgent to me, and sort of willfully obtuse. And I say this AS a thin person who has personally experienced a lot of what the commenters on this post are expressing frustration with. What these women are talking about is SEXISM, not “skinny shaming.” To have a thin body is to have privilege. One can experience oppression related to other aspects of one’s identity (e.g., being a woman), but parts of one’s identity or appearance that convey social privilege cannot be sources of oppression. They can be sources of meanness, sure, but not oppression. And there’s a really big difference.

      • Dr. Climber

        19.12.2014 at 17:51 Reply

        YES. Thank you.

      • Ben & Steph

        21.12.2014 at 09:57 Reply

        Sarah, as well as Dr. Climber and RM. My blog in no way was meant to address systematic oppression. I did not feel “oppressed” and purposely did not use that term because that would take my experience and magnify it to a much greater problem in the world. There are far much struggles that people go through and I am aware of that. As a professional runner, mom, and woman this topic was just near and dear to my heart that I wanted to address my experience and share how I felt about it. It’s hard for me to be criticized on what I “didn’t” include in the blog. Being thin is not a privilege in my opinion. For some it’s just how their bodies are made, for others something they works towards. Again my topic was a very small part of issues that exist and I am for celebrating our bodies regardless of size, color, and where we come from. I appreciate all of your strong opinions and for taking the time to read and comment.

        • SJ

          22.12.2014 at 16:00 Reply

          Dear Stephanie,

          I appreciate the sincere nature of your reply comment. I think many of the people who commented here, including myself, are frustrated that you took a very large social construct (“shaming”) and inserted your own personal experience. In effect, you ignored the experiences of many women, and that is why people criticized you for what you left out. If you blog, you will get criticized. A good blogger will think critically about these comments (especially if the same sentiment is echoed by different voices) and choose to address these voices. You, after all, have the platform here.

          Unfortunately, your opinion on thin privilege doesn’t matter. Studies show it does, whether or not you like it. Instead of being defensive, read more: https://danceswithfat.wordpress.com/2012/06/24/whats-this-thin-privilege-thing/

          For the record, I think you are a great athlete, with a powerful, beautiful body, and I am grateful that you are willing to address body issues among women, in your public platform. But I think you are wrong- thin privilege is real, and you should not have called your post “skinny shaming.” You should have called it “Shitty stuff people said about me, and here’s how many fucks I give: zero.”

          • Dr. Climber

            23.12.2014 at 05:42

            “Shitty stuff people said about me, and here’s how many fucks I give: zero.” LOVE IT. I would totally read that blog post.

        • Dr. Climber

          23.12.2014 at 05:52 Reply

          “Being thin is not a privilege in my opinion.”

          I think you might be confused about what we mean when we use “privilege” in the context of social justice. When we talk about thin privilege, white privilege, male privilege, straight privilege, or cis privilege, we don’t mean that those attributes — a thin body, white skin, etc. — are themselves privileges in the way of, say, telephone privileges that you earn for good behavior. When we say “thin privilege,” we are talking about the invisible privileges, inherently unearned, that thin people enjoy in society just for being thin. One of those privileges is the ability to exist in the world unaware of privilege. Here’s a great, funny article on McSweeney’s that tries to illustrate how privilege functions *because* it is difficulty to see: http://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/product-review-the-invisible-backpack-of-white-privilege-from-ll-bean.

          I hope you take these comments as an opportunity to learn more about these issues. Calling your experience personal does not absolve you of the responsibility to learn about the experiences of others and try to understand how your actions participate in — or resist — systems of oppression.

  • GradyC

    19.12.2014 at 07:02 Reply

    Steph, you look great! People sometimes belittle others because they are insecure in their own bodies, so their comments reflex on them, not on you. I’ve been a skinny runner all my life. Now, I’m 67 and look at least 10 years younger than my age. I’m a healthy role model to my peers, most of whom are fat and have serious health issues because of decades of neglecting their health.

    You are a healthy role model to your peers! It’s courageous on your part to share this story.

    • Ben & Steph

      21.12.2014 at 09:26 Reply

      Thanks for the comments.

    • Sarah

      22.12.2014 at 17:13 Reply

      Assuming that fat people “neglect their health” or have “health issues” because of the size of their bodies is judging people’s health based on their outward appearance— exactly what Stephanie is exhorting us not to do! It is also extremely condescending to assume that your peers need to you be a role model for them.

  • Strong Runner

    19.12.2014 at 07:05 Reply

    Being lean is just a part of running. For some it comes naturally, for others it may be tough. Either way, we run and keep running, ignoring the naysayers and negative comments. Keep up your hard work and be proud of it.

    • Ben & Steph

      21.12.2014 at 09:28 Reply

      Yes and being lean isn’t the end goal. Being strong and healthy is and whatever body that translates for you is the most important part. Thanks for commenting!

  • Hollis

    19.12.2014 at 07:42 Reply

    It sure is amazing how compassionate, caring, supportive, etc people can be. It is also amazing how horrible, lazy, judgmental, etc people can be. I can’t wait to show this to my roommates 13year old athletic daughter. Good stuff! Thanks for sharing!

    • Ben & Steph

      21.12.2014 at 09:29 Reply

      Thank you for reading and sharing.

  • Jessica Monson

    19.12.2014 at 08:31 Reply

    First of all you look fantastic! You are an awesome role model for women. I am a mom of 2 young girls, and also a distance runner (training to qualify for the Olympic Trials in the marathon) I too am small framed but a “fit” thin. Those comments from those women shaming your body is so wrong. Women should support each other, and not project their own body issues on to someone else who is setting the right example for women and girls everywhere. I admire your courage to be transparent in your blog. You say what women are feeling or going through but do not have the courage to talk about. Keep your head held high! Let go of the negativity. Focus on all of us women who support you and admire you for all of your hard work!

    • Ben & Steph

      21.12.2014 at 09:30 Reply

      Jessica, thanks for sharing. I agree, as women we should support one another. Good luck with qualifying for the Trials.

  • Holly

    19.12.2014 at 09:26 Reply

    Great blog post!
    I’d like to comment as a runner and pro triathlete that is NOT thin.
    I’ve never had a thin build – ever. I grew up as a swimmer; a strong athlete. I’ve been very competitive in many sports my whole life. However, my size always made me “othered”, like I was a fluke of an athlete because I don’t have a typical runners build (whatever that is). I recently joined a new gym, where an instructor asked me what I did because I was strong. I said I’m a triathlete and we chatted about the level I compete at. She looked squarely at me and said “Wow, you are like a sneak attack. You don’t even look like a runner”…. What I’m trying to say is, I can relate, even without being skinny. It can be hard to fit into society as a female athlete. Magazines, social media, and even clothes are not built for women who choose to sweat. The struggle is to first know yourself, then to stay true to yourself, all with a healthy mind, body, and soul.

    • Ben & Steph

      21.12.2014 at 09:33 Reply

      Holly, yes that comment of “you don’t look like a runner” is where the problem is. Runners comes in all shapes and sizes and that should be encouraged. Athletes come in all forms, so as you said be true to yourself.

  • Dr. Climber

    19.12.2014 at 09:38 Reply

    To echo what RM said, there’s no wrong way to have a body, and comments about women’s bodies, big or small, are not OK. They’re part of the patriarchal assertion of ownership over women’s bodies. But we need to be really careful to understand the difference between individual shitty experiences and systemic oppression. Yes, people can direct nasty comments at skinny women, but that’s not the same as the systemic oppression directed at fat women, and to equate the two by using the term “skinny shaming” (taken from the term “fat shaming”) disregards the ways in which fat women are routinely discriminated against in hiring, urban planning, interior design, medical care, sports, and the media — not to mention the daily acts of micro aggression that discourage fat women from entering public spaces with the expectation of comfort and acceptance. Unfortunately, this post and many of the comments on it reinforce the systemic oppression of fat women and the exclusion of fat women from our concept of athletic bodies. When you emphasize your interest in being a “role model” — you mention how good it made you feel when people said you were a good role model, and how bad it made you feel when people said you weren’t — you don’t talk about how you are a role model except through the presentation of your body. This indicates that when you say you want to be a “role model,” what you mean is that you want people to want to be like you — physically. GradyC makes this connection explicit when she writes, “I am a healthy role model to my peers, most of whom are fat and have serious health issues because of decades of neglecting their health.” Fat women, according to GradyC, should aspire to be like her, and if they are not like her, it is a sign of laziness and moral failing. That doesn’t sound like a great role model to me — that sounds like a narcissist looking for admiration from people she devalues. To me, a good role model is someone who can engage with people of all shapes and sizes and encourage them to be themselves with pride. This means encouraging — and making space for — fat women and girls (and women of girls of color, and queer women and girls) in sports, not because fat women need sports to become thin, but because sport needs to start acknowledging that athletic bodies come in all shapes and sizes. No woman needs to change her shape to be an athlete — an athlete is not what she looks like, but what she DOES. THAT is empowerment.

    • Sarah

      19.12.2014 at 11:09 Reply

      YES YES YES YES YES YES YES.

      “Yes, people can direct nasty comments at skinny women, but that’s not the same as the systemic oppression directed at fat women, and to equate the two by using the term ‘skinny shaming’ (taken from the term fat shaming’) disregards the ways in which fat women are routinely discriminated against in hiring, urban planning, interior design, medical care, sports, and the media — not to mention the daily acts of micro aggression that discourage fat women from entering public spaces with the expectation of comfort and acceptance. Unfortunately, this post and many of the comments on it reinforce the systemic oppression of fat women and the exclusion of fat women from our concept of athletic bodies.”

      THIS. SO MUCH THIS. Thank you for this eloquent, spot-on comment.

  • jay s.

    19.12.2014 at 10:22 Reply

    As someone who is slight — I’m 5’6″ and between 112 and 118 lbs depending on the time of year and whether I’m in running/triathlon or cross country ski season — I get the “skinny shaming” too. I also eat large volumes of food, but most of it is high quality food. I know a lot about nutrition and I eat well.

    But just a point: the definition of health is not just getting your period. Not getting your period means you’re really really deprived. It’s a BIG warning sign, not a small warning sign, that you’re doing something wrong. My point is that you can still be unhealthy and get your period.

    I’m not saying that *you* are unhealthy, I’m saying that there are probably more convincing ways to talk about how skinny people can be healthy than to say “I still get my period.” Like I’m strong, my iron levels are good, I wake up and I feel energized. I eat a balanced diet and, as you said, a lot of calories from a lot of different sources. And I don’t have any of the major warning signs of malnutrition — but also none of the minor signs like fragile nails, poor skin tone, &c.

    Having kids myself, it amazes me the extent to which body type is inherited. You are who you are — I, like you, naturally tend to the very thin.

    All the power to you.

    • Ben & Steph

      21.12.2014 at 09:37 Reply

      Thanks for your points. I completely agree that getting your period is not the only definition of health. In my post I explained that as one of my most important aspects of being healthy while training at a very high level. I could have included my iron, blood levels are very healthy as well but did not want to explain my entire lifestyle. Thanks for pointing these things out as they are all pieces of the puzzle of health. We do all have different body types and should embrace what we are given.

      • Yourstrulu

        03.01.2015 at 11:24 Reply

        Actually, not getting your period can be your bodies response to any sudden change. It can be brought on by stress, a new exercise routine (even while maintaining body fat) or brought on by weight loss even if there is still plenty of weight that can be spared. Once adapted, a period will probably return eventually no matter what. Look at all the clearly malnourished women having clearly malnourished babies in other parts of the world. They weren’t healthy, but they had periods, because the situation wasn’t changing and the body will do what it needs to to try and continue the human race. There are many health factors to be observed…healthy hair, nails, bones and teeth, muscle quality, and performance levels. Those show much better than a menstrual cycle whether or not someone is adequately nourished. Thin privledge is real. Thin women are more likely to get the job, etc. but that doesn’t mean the fault of that is squarely on the shoulders of thin people. Fat interviewers are more likely to give thin people the job too. We have ALL been subjected to societal messages that thin also means diligent, etc. skinny shaming doesn’t do anything to help Everyone seperate the idea of fat=lazy, etc. really we should all just judge people on their character, not their size, strive to be in our own best health, and otherwise keep our mouths closed. There is no reason any of us should feel the need to justify the acceptability of our bodies to anyone else.

  • Sarah

    19.12.2014 at 10:36 Reply

    A – effing – men.

  • Tony

    19.12.2014 at 11:48 Reply

    Nice butt! 🙂

  • Wendy

    19.12.2014 at 12:24 Reply

    Thank you for this!! I have recently lost 50 lbs. I did this as part of my goal to become healthy again. I was really overweight. As part of my eat right and exercise life style now, I run. I am at the point where my calorie intake is at a proper level for the amount of exercise I do, but still allowing me to inch toward the last 8 pounds I need to lose. At this point, it could take me 6 months to lose the rest. And that is ok with me. What I am not ok with is that my family and my in-laws have all started to say to me that I’m too skinny now. I know BMI is just a number. But, my BMI still puts me in the overweight category. What I think the problem is is that they have seen me 60 pounds or more overweight for so long that they are used to how I looked and now I look so different they “think” I’m too skinny. When, in fact, I am not too skinny. I could stand to lose 15 more pounds, but I’m only aiming for 8 more. I think as a whole our society has become too accustom to seeing people who are overweight. Overweight sizes seem normal to people now. My weight loss is supervised by my Doctor. She is well aware of where I am and what my fat to lean mass is. If she was to tell me I was too skinny, then I would listen to her and respect her educated medical advice on the subject.

    By the way, I think you look great and are an excellent role model for all women!

    • Ben & Steph

      21.12.2014 at 10:08 Reply

      Wendy that’s a great story and congrats on losing the weight. Families and friends should be supportive in your efforts to feel and be healthy. Either way we shouldn’t be judged on our appearance if this end goal it to be healthy. That’s a different size for everyone.

  • James

    19.12.2014 at 14:30 Reply

    Such and inspiring read. It takes alot to put you this type of story out

    • Ben & Steph

      21.12.2014 at 10:05 Reply

      Thanks James, appreciate the read!

  • Jessica Telligman

    19.12.2014 at 23:25 Reply

    While it’s unproductive to be mean or call you “sick”, there is some truth to the claim that prolonged, competitive, long distance running isn’t healthy. Just count the number of broken body parts/ fractures/ stress reactions between you and Lauren Fleshman alone and it’s obvious your bodies are pushed beyond their natural limits. Given it’s your job, that’s fine, but don’t be startled when not everyone wants that for their daughters. As a former competitive runner, I can testify that the number of my former running friends/teammates, including one NCAA All American, who essentially broke thier bodies vastly outnumber the women still able to run today. That’s not true for every sport. Just trying to keep it real!

    • Ben & Steph

      21.12.2014 at 10:15 Reply

      Jessica, thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. It too is unproductive to once again call out what you feel we are doing to our bodies and assume lots of broken bones. In any sport an athlete can experience broken bones. I do not wish every girl aspire to run at a highly competitive level. I hope that those young girls who do run or compete in sports have a positive body image of themselves and strive to remain healthy while competing. The end goal for us as elite runners is being the very best in the country and world but never at the expense of truly hurting our bodies. If an athlete or runner were to suffer from numerous stress reactions, fractures time and time again they might need to reevaluate how well they are taking care of their body. That has not been the case for Lauren and I.

    • Tony Osborn

      14.01.2015 at 14:34 Reply

      Those who chose to ignore the signs from their body to take it easy get hurt, elite or not. I bet Steph outlives 99% of the people on this planet because of her lifestyle.

  • Ricardo Maldonado

    20.12.2014 at 05:27 Reply

    Stephanie,

    It is sad that people will try to shame others when they have no good reason whatsoever. But that is the world we live in. We can’t prevent some people from being ignorant and rude. I have seen you at many races, run next to you and behind you, and never once did I think you looked too thin much less unhealthy. I have always thought you looked damn fast and that you obviously take your profession very seriously because you looked super fit. It took courage for you to stand up and talk about this publicly, and your reasons for doing so as you discussed so eloquently says a lot about your character. Keep up the great work!

    Ricardo

    • Ben & Steph

      21.12.2014 at 09:44 Reply

      Ricardo, say hi next time we’re at a race together. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.

  • MW

    20.12.2014 at 10:47 Reply

    This is a great blog post. I am a dietitian and a runner, also slender in frame. Every day someone comments on what I eat – how it’s “too healthy” or how “skinny” I am. But somedays, it’s just the opposite – “oh look, the dietitian is eating cookies” or “you’re going to eat THAT?” Why yes, I am going to eat THAT (anything deemed “unhealthy”). While I don’t believe there are good foods and bad foods, it’s all about balance and making healthy choices 90% of the time. There is nothing wrong with having dessert or eating a hamburger every now and then and there certainly is nothing wrong with running 🙂

    • Ben & Steph

      21.12.2014 at 09:40 Reply

      All about balance, that is true. Comments directed towards what or how you eat from strangers/friends is simply unnecessary. Thanks for reading and sharing.

  • RM

    21.12.2014 at 07:58 Reply

    Stephanie, I came back on hoping to see that you had addressed many of the comments here. I’m disappointed to see you haven’t. It’s hard for me to support a runner – and the woman-owned and -operated company that sponsors her – when she’s allowing so many comments saying so many negative things about so many other body types to stand without question. Essentially, there’s a set of people commenting here and doing exactly what you’ve asked people not to do to you, judging people’s health and worth based on their outward appearance instead of actual knowledge of individual circumstance. Unfortunately, this doesn’t “empower” anyone.
    Again, I’m really sorry that people were mean to you online, but I’d like to reiterate that there’s a difference between meanness and oppression. For perspective, women I know who blog while larger-bodied, disabled, queer, feminist, Black, Latina, Asian, and with many other experiences that question systemic oppression face rape and death threats because they threaten the status quo. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, nor would I wish mean comments on anyone, but it does call to attention the fact that many people are threatened by the very existence of those that are differently-bodied.

    • Ben & Steph

      21.12.2014 at 08:46 Reply

      Renee,
      Thanks for the comment. I was actually sitting down today to reply to the comments on the blog as I appreciate everyone taking the time to share their thoughts. I agree completely that worldwide oppression does exist and my story was a minor part of one topic I chose to address. I received a criticism and wrote a my blog from my perspective and that’s my experience. I could not write on behalf of the other people’s personal experience who face discrimination based on different body types, races, etc. I feel the comments I have received that are positive understand why I wrote the blog. The negative ones telling me what I “missed” in the blog didn’t understand why I was writing it. My main focus was to encourage people to not judge others based on their appearance. My experience was my way of conveying this message.

  • Margaret

    21.12.2014 at 09:42 Reply

    Loved reading this. You had so many great things to say about healthy eating and body image. As a runner who has struggled with having a positive body image and healthy relationship with food, this was a very welcome read. I really liked what you said about female athletes making sure they are still getting their periods and preserving their bones. So often I think women feel it’s okay that they are not getting their periods because they are runners. A friend of mine is an avid runner, but is also struggling with an eating disorder I think. She has told me that she hasn’t had her period in the last year, that she has an intense fear of gaining weight (even though she is already very skinny), and that she weighs herself multiple times a day. She also has some other odd eating behavior (“good” foods and “bad” foods), and keeps to a very strict training schedule. I hope somehow she comes across your blog and is able to read some of the things you have said. I’m being as supportive as I can, but it’s hard to watch someone struggling with such intense demons in their head.
    It seems that whatever shape that we are at, we as women are always being criticized about our bodies without any consideration for the lives we live.
    Also, I’m really enjoying hearing about your return to running after having your son. I had foot surgery a few days ago, so any kind of inspiration in the return-to-running department is needed and enjoyed.
    Sorry to hear that comments on your blog made you sad, I think you’re awesome for all that you do 🙂
    Thanks again for posting, I’m a big fan of yours!

  • Kristin

    22.12.2014 at 14:05 Reply

    Thank you for sharing this. Unfortunately in our society it is impossible to please everyone. I myself am still struggling with coming to terms with this but it has definitely improved. Runners (and athletes for that matter) come in all shapes and sizes. Keep doing what you are doing. As a mom (daughter is 7 and son is 3), I seek out people like you to help me demonstrate to them that no matter what “imperfections” you might have, you can do anything that you set your mind to AND you can love yourself for it.

  • Christina Hogue

    22.12.2014 at 18:38 Reply

    What an awesome message! You look great & I say keep on doing your thing bc you are a great role model for so many people…especially women runners!

  • CSC

    22.12.2014 at 19:02 Reply

    Thank you for sharing your story. I appreciate that you experienced the online commentary about your photos as skinny shaming. I also appreciate that you were writing about your personal experience — the real, and very hurtful experience of being judged online by (often anonymous) posters who can’t or won’t accept that you are making healthy choices about food, lifestyle, etc. It’s crazy, right?? I can’t think of many super-fast runners distance who don’t look like you. The fact of the matter is that having a lean build (through genetics AND good food choices AND incredibly hard work over many years) and a huge aerobic engine is positively correlated with success in distance running. You look a lot like all of the other fast runners out there! While I would not trade my short, ex-swimmer, sturdy, athletic (muscular) body for anything, there are times (oh, say, mile 20 of a marathon) when I would not mind a little more LEAN muscle mass 🙂

    That said — and while I appreciate that you wanted to write about YOUR experience, not every possible experience — I do think it helps to put body shaming into context:

    — As an earlier poster noted, our society privileges certain bodies — usually skinny, white bodies. If you are overweight, some say it must be because you are lazy, lack self-discipline, etc.. These people don’t seem to realize that you might be overweight because (for example) you live in the inner city and lack access to fresh fruits and veggies, or you can’t afford a gym, or you live in a place where a woman walking or running alone for exercise is not safe, or you don’t have supportive family members who encourage you to get some exercise, or you don’t have child care so you can’t get away from the house to go for a run, or you are taking medication which causes bloating, or you suffer from medical conditions which make it difficult to exercise, etc.. Skinny shaming hurts — and it is unquestionably wrong — but skinny people are not judged as morally inferior and they generally are not discriminated against in housing, public accommodations, etc.. These are things that overweight people deal with on a regular basis. I just think it helps to keep that in mind . . . recognizing and acknowledging that you did not set out to write about anyone’s experiences except your own.

    — More generally, as other posters have noted, the real problem may not be skinny shaming. It’s that our society seems to think that it is ok to comment on and judge women’s bodies, often through anonymous internet trolling-style comments. Too thin, too fat, too muscular, too waif-like, looks good in bun-huggers, doesn’t look good in bun-huggers, I’d do her/ she’s so ugly no one would ever do her . . . . blah, blah, blah. The list of hurtful comments goes on and on. And, it’s not ok. I don’t mean that we all have to sit silently — heck, I am the first person to note how amazing it is to watch really fast runners (male and female) run. You elites are AMAZING. I just think that some people could use a bit more empathy — and less judgment — when speaking about other people’s bodies and choices.

    Thank you for putting yourself out there to discuss these issues. The internet can be awesome . . . . or not . . . Body image is a difficult subject, and you started an interesting conversation precisely because you were willing to be honest and vulnerable. I can’t wait to cheer for you as you make your return to racing.

    • Ben & Steph

      03.01.2015 at 07:51 Reply

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. While I disagree in areas we all have our own opinions. Appreciate the feedback.

  • Deb Tris for Kona

    23.12.2014 at 09:01 Reply

    AMAZING blog and AMAZING athlete. I love how real you are! Merry Christmas!!

  • Stephanie Pettibone

    23.12.2014 at 20:00 Reply

    Im so proud of you. Love you guys!

  • Cat

    29.12.2014 at 19:49 Reply

    I’m a little late commenting but I love this post! I’m in no way a professional runner, but I’m pretty active so I have a similar build. I’ve never had anyone tell me outright to “gain some weight”, but people often make comments about how I’m small or don’t eat enough. It’s total a double standard because no one would ever say this to an overweight person. Most people that say things to me aren’t athletes so i just kind of roll my eyes and ignore them. Not to generalize the majority of commenters on your article, but I have a feeling it is the same. I think you are a great role model. Especially for young girls.

    • Ben & Steph

      03.01.2015 at 07:47 Reply

      Thanks Cat, appreciate the comments!

  • Audrey

    02.01.2015 at 19:21 Reply

    You do you, beautiful. Thank you for being so transparent and honest.

  • Emily

    02.01.2015 at 20:27 Reply

    I’m a college runner (DII) and I appreciate this post, and everything you always post. I’m the thinnest on my team and my body is always of interest to others and my coach especially. I’m 5’6″ and about 110. I was actually a 9lb 12oz baby and just didn’t gain much weight after that 😉 We recently underwent body testing and my body fat was a topic for the week. I’m asked a lot about how much I eat, if I eat healthy, and I’ve even been asked a few times about my ability to have children in the future (seriously). Watching you have a safe pregnancy and still run and be healthy is really inspiring to me. Thank you for blogging and being honest about your body. I look up to you and I’m grateful that you share your life.

    • Ben & Steph

      03.01.2015 at 07:49 Reply

      Emily, just keep being true to your self and as long as you are strong and healthy running you’re doing a great job. Glad I could be of inspiration.

  • Victoria Barana

    20.01.2015 at 07:55 Reply

    Amen, sister! Skinny shaming must be stopped! If I had a dollar for every time someone tells me I am too skinny (emphasis on the too, looking at me with a face they may use to give condolences to someone who lost a loved one)! I still remember how horrible I felt when a total stranger told me to eat a burger! What if I were really sick?? I also think there is a double standard as to how people treat running women v. men: You never hear people say how sick/skinny Meb looks. If people only knew how much we actually eat!! Anyways, thanks for this! I think you look awesome: strong and fast. Keep it up, Steph.

    • Ben & Steph

      20.01.2015 at 20:05 Reply

      Victoria, thanks for reading and leaving a comment. There are issues across the board with different body weights and shaming of them. We all can do better to respect one another.

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  • Nope

    14.03.2016 at 05:46 Reply

    If you honestly think “skinny shaming” is a thing, you’re probably the type that says things like “ALL LIVES MATTER!” You can’t be “skinny shamed” in a society that values apperance to the degree it does. You’re incredibly tone deaf if you think otherwise.

    • Stephanie

      14.03.2016 at 11:08 Reply

      Thanks for your comment. I understand we all have different opinions on certain topics so I respect how you feel, just different than me.

  • Buskey

    05.02.2017 at 08:17 Reply

    You are truly inspiring to me.
    Peoples opinions are just that. Their opinions. You can’t please everyone, and why should you. It’s easy to say it doesn’t matter. Your feelings get hurt just the same. If people were just excepting of “everyone is different “. Not everyone is nice though so I guess that can’t be expected. I have been on both sides in my life. I was over 200 pounds in the course of 13 years of having 7 children . Before and after that I am on the skinny side. Who would figure. Now trying to run a half marathon. I have never been a runner so this is a slow process for me. Enjoying it emensly! My goal was to run with my sister, who has MS. If she can do it so can’t I. * fingers crossed*. My piont though was your pictures after baby is truly inspiring. No matter what size you are no body defines perfection unless you say it is. My tummy is squishy no matter how skinny I am. It’s something I have felt self conscious about until I just started to love my body!
    So do what you do!!! I thank you for being a role model for MY DAUGHTERS. No one is perfect! Wouldn’t life be boring if we were all the same? We could all be NICER though! I teach my children no one is perfect. That is ok. As long as you are proud of your actions and tried your best.
    I also have told my children sometimes people say things and walk away and say ” That was a stupid comment and I didn’t mean it like the way it sounded” I have been a victim of my mouth and mind not connecting and meant it positive but it came out ackward! So I try to teach my children not all people try to be mean either.
    Thank you so much. Sorry for the ramble,
    Buskey

    • Stephanie Bruce

      06.02.2017 at 13:09 Reply

      Hi Buskey,

      Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to respond! Appreciate the comments:)
      -Stephanie

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