I've always been a tallish, strong, naturally muscular woman, with a body shape that is decidedly not skinny. And while I could definitely stand to lose a solid 10 pounds of fat (who couldn't?), I've come to the realization that my body is not only larger-boned, but that those muscles I spent my teenage years bemoaning are the source of a tremendous strength. Not metaphorical power, in the body-acceptance vernacular, but real strength. To wit, I'm as physically able to move heavy objects (canoes, couches, cat litter) as any of my male friends or partners have been. And while I've never hung with male body builders, I always feel that I can 100 percent hold my own with most guys.
Yes, I'm the woman who changes the water bottle in the office — with nary a drop spilled.
As a runner, cyclist, hiker, water sports lover, irregular yogini, and very regular gym-goer, I've realized that frequent and abundant physical activity is a must for me — I sleep better, feel better, and handle stress better when I work out most days. So it's been fun watching the Olympics, and as the American women have racked up the majority of the United States' gold medals, I've been cheering them on — and enjoying the rare media sight of women with muscular calves, wide shoulders, thick thighs, strong backs (and yes, some really amazing butts and six-pack abs). Women who are so much more like what I see in the mirror every day than the plethora of airbrushed, super-skinny models that prance across magazines, drape across billboards, and hawk products at me from the TV.
In just the few weeks that the Olympics has been broadcasting, I've noticed my appreciation for my own muscles growing. I feel more attractive and even more comfortable with my calves (whose size has always kind of embarrassed me). Seeing other women who are unabashedly strong and extraordinarily talented (and is most cases, very much NOT skinny, even if they are in great shape) is a relief to me, and the definition of a "sight for sore eyes."
So thanks female Olympians, for both kicking butt and grabbing the gold medals (and to those who are the first women from their countries to represent, a hearty serving of total admiration at your guts) and also helping me — and I'm sure plenty of other girls and women — feel proud of my physical strength in a world that calls models who are my size (a U.S. 8) "plus-sized," and then makes "plus-sized" women feel like second-class citizens.
Related natural beauty stories on MNN:
- Seventeen magazine commits to no Photoshopping
- Big Snapshot: Female Olympians break new ground
- Pinterest bans 'thinspirational' and other pro-anorexia images