Anna Kessel’s book, ‘Eat Sweat Play’ covers everything from gender stereotypes and the societal view of women in sport to common sporting taboos such as periods, pregnancy, motherhood and menopause.
It is jam-packed with facts; to the point where I found myself flagging pages that had interesting viewpoints and writing down athletes names that are mentioned throughout the book so I wouldn’t forget to follow them on Twitter and read more about them afterwards. Eat Sweat Play covers so many different angles and aspects of women in sport but the topic that resonated with me most discussed why our twenty-first century obsession with exercise is all wrong.
The twenty-first-century notion of exercise being the whole #fitspo fashionista image where expensive juice bars, gyms and classes result in picture perfect toned legs, arms and abs.
Anna highlights how sport and exercise are all part of the same active spectrum for men, but for women they are presented as two very distinct things. Exercise, with its approved end-goal of delivering you a better body vs. Sport, and sweating from competitive exertion.
This is something I’ve always struggled with identifying. It’s great that exercise is popular now, it really is. But exercise for image isn’t the same as losing yourself in a game or race and achieving something more than societies version of approved body image. I thought it was just me who struggled with exercise vs. sport but when I read it in black and white, it suddenly became fact. This is what motivated me to write this post.
For example, I’d say that I am someone who is quite comfortable being in the moment and being comfortable in my one skin – especially when it comes to sport. I don’t care what people think at the gym, in the changing room and especially not during a race. I do however get self-conscious when I see images after the fact and I don’t look “instagram worthy”, or when I’m wearing real clothes (aka not spandex) and all of the sudden my athletic stature looks less feminine than I picture it being.
I’ve been shy on Instagram and my blog lately… A large contributing factor of that is this horrible idea that I have to look a certain way to be appealing or accepted as a fitness blogger. This pressure has been bubbling under the surface for about a year now. Over the past few months I have started unfollowing other fitness bloggers because I just couldn’t compete with their image or relate with their message. It just didn’t feel healthy worrying about my image so much, so I took a step back from the cause. Why worry about getting that “instagram worthy” picture I need to post every day, when instead I can just keep enjoying the moment?
I didn’t start Live Loosley for #fitspo. I started it to share my journey with competitive sport because it is something I love and it is something I want everyone to experience. Setting a functional goal, working hard for it, having fun with it and achieving something you never thought you could do – It is the BEST feeling. It is empowering and full of positive lessons… how to bounce back from a bad race, how to push through tough times, why it’s worth it. It’s for you, not for the bod.
I know that according to society my legs and arms are too strong and my butt jiggles more than it should. But this body has gotten me over the finish line of countless rowing races, a marathon, and many triathlons. That’s just something I wouldn’t trade. There should be more than one body shape that is socially accepted and it shouldn’t be a main concern of ours to achieve it.
I was shocked and comforted to read that this doesn’t just impact amateur athletes like myself, it impacts elite athletes too. Badass women in sport like Serena Williams, Rebecca Adlington, Hollie Avil and Jessica Ennis Hill all speak up about the pressure they face having athletic bodies that don’t conform to societies approved image of what is considered beautiful. Even when you are top of the field, body image is in the back of your mind. This just doesn’t happen in mens sports.
So thank-you Anna Kessel for writing Eat Sweat Play and reminding me to be proud of my body for what it achieves, and for encouraging women all over the world to try sport on their own terms.
Have you read Eat Sweat Play? What did you think?
Have any men out there read it?