As runners it’s easy to become over concerned with how our bodies look. We worry about what we eat not only because we want to be healthy and perform our best, but also so that we look the part of a runner.

I’m here to tell you that what a runner looks like, is you. Runners come in all shapes and sizes. I have been amazed in many a race at the bodies that are ahead of me. No I’m not amazed at the women who weight 105 lbs. I’m amazed at the women who are taller than me, whose thighs are larger than mine, who don’t have 15% body fat, who are strong large women – women who are faster than me.

I’ve contemplated a thought about weight and speed over the years – every time it comes to mind I feel the same way. If you told me today that for the rest of my life I had to be 10lbs more than my *ideal weight* but this meant that I would go under 3:15 in the marathon – which would I choose? Weigh more and run faster or weigh less and never get any faster than 3:21? I would choose to weigh more and run faster. I have realized[though even I need reminding at times] that my self worth and my times on the clock are not related to how low the number is on the scale.

I’m an avid reader. What I have learned about body fat is not only interesting but should encourage you to find happiness in your current weight, rather than worrying about the 10lbs you think you need to loose, but probably don’t.

Fat is not our enemy. We need a certain level of fat in order for our bodies to function properly. “fat, or adipose tissue, is an essential part of our nerves, spinal cord, brain, and cell membranes” Its interesting to note that “essential fat comprises about 4 percent of body weight, that is 6 fat pounds for a 150-pound man. In comparison, the reference woman has about 12 percent essential fat, that is 15 fat pounds for a 125-pound woman.” Yes I said that for the average woman who weighs 125 pounds, 15 pounds of it is ESSENTIAL. When your body dips to a body fat level that is too low, it either goes into starvation/survival mode, or does not function properly.

The average body fat percentage levels for a male are 13 -17 percent and 20 – 27 percent for women. Think about this – it is healthy and NORMAL for women to be comprised of 1/4 adipose tissue, which is otherwise known as FAT.

I’ve always felt that my thighs were large in comparison to my body.[even I have body issues at times] I however was encouraged to know that “the activity of the enzymes that store fat in women’s thighs and hips is very high compared with the enzyme activity in other fat storage areas in women and to fat storage in the hips and thighs of men” This means if you are among the lucky few women who can boast sinewy thighs, consider yourself lucky. If you are not one of those women, don’t strive for that, it’s just genetically not possible for most of us.

Returning to what I said about your body entering into starvation mode consider this. “extreme amounts of exercise can be interpreted as famine(because of high calorie deficit) *food efficiency* may develop, particularly in women who maintain a chronic energy deficit.” Really think about this if you wonder why your friend can eat twice as much as you, but doesn’t gain any weight. Have you restricted yourself so much that your body has now become *food efficient* – clinging to the few calories that you do eat? Sometimes the best way to loose body fat and/or unwanted weight is to actually eat more and speed up your metabolism. Let your body know that it will always have a steady supply of healthy calories, so there is no need to store as much.

So there you have it. Fat is not always the enemy. Learn to love the body you have, appreciate it for the miles it gives you, the races it helps you complete, whether they be fast or slow. Instead of self loathing, which as we know is very self defeating, believe in yourself and become someone who is self appreciative.

** all quotes taken from Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook – 3rd Edition


  1. Karen the "Hungry Mom" says:

    very interesting and well written. i will officially stop wishing for tiny little stick legs. :)

  2. The Laminator says:

    Right on, D! Right on!

  3. saundra says:

    Great post! It is really hard for active women to embrace our bodies when even the pro athletes appear to have less than normal body fat percentages.

  4. Great post! I'm constantly worried about my body fat thinking if I just lost 1 pound of fat that's a 1 pound weight i wouldn't have to carry while running… I guess I'm weird.

  5. awesome.

    I worry so [soooooooooooooooo] much about this. TOO much. I'm grateful I found this post today.
    Well written.

  6. Love, Love, Love your post! I think just about EVERY women wishes they could lose just a little more fat when in reality it might be healthier NOT too. Thanks for the reminder to not focus so much on the aesthetics. Very healthy post to read! I would love to include it in my "Friday Fav's" if that's alright. Have a great day!

  7. Mile Posts by Dorothy Beal says:

    Kiesha – I would be honored if you included it in your Friday Fav's!

    Lauren – you are not alone!!!! I never even considered wearing racing flats until I felt like I had no more weight to loose. I just thought – why worry about ounces on the shoe when I could just try to loose 1/2 a lb. What really helped me get past that silly notion is realizing that the fat I feared is what fuels my body! If you have no fat, you have no energy for races of the marathon distance!!

  8. Meredith says:

    Can I just tell you how much I look forward to your posts?? Always inspiring. Always encouraging. Always what I need to hear. Thank you!! I've been wanting to take off another 10 (I've lost 14 since starting to run in January) and those 10 are NOT wanting to come off. I can get 2-3 off and then my body just stops. I'm definitely not the smallest girl in the bunch, but I struggle with wondering if maybe this is what healthy is for me… not compare myself to others or what I could be. As with wanting to enjoy the ride and cherish the moment with running, I think part of me needs to just enjoy the ride in my new healthy body and be okay with where I'm at right now. Anyway, again, thank you!!

  9. nice post! Very well written and informative.

  10. Alison B., "Runbuggy" says:

    Great post! I became very lean from running, strength training and being super-strict with my eating in an attempt to shed body fat and get a leaner look. My body fat was about 15% on the Tanita scale and around 12% using the calipers (there is always a discrepancy between the two measurement techniques). Long story short…. my husband and I had difficulty conceiving for quite some time. I had to cut my running and gain some of the weight I had lost to try and get my body functioning normally again. My period went missing for a year – BUT, I also stopped taking birth control after 9 years, so we still have no idea if it was the pill, low body fat, or a combination. We now have a healthy 7-1/2 month old boy. I'm back into running full swing and making sure my body fat stays at a healthy level. Oh – and Nancy Clark's book is awesome. I'm a dietitian too and she is the Queen of Sports Nutrition. Great finding your blog!!

  11. Staci Dombroski says:

    Great post!!! Sooo true :)

  12. I love this post and could not agree more. :)

  13. Sarah Ann Kreps says:

    DT, great post. You are amazing.

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