If you think that you look unflattering in your race photos, try doing it naked. Not only will you look unflattering, but you will feel physically unflattering. You’ll smell unflattering, and you will sound unflattering.
Or at least that was how I thought my naked 5k race experience would be.
Despite many naked treadmill training sessions, I wasn’t fully prepared for the emotional discomfort I initially felt wash over me while I lined up at the start line with hundreds of other naked (or partially naked) runners.
The pre-race fun began with small talk and cracking jokes with the other runners about all of the possible things that could go wrong during the run and how we’ll explain our naked injury to loved ones. I shook hands with these naked people. I got to know them. They invited me into their cabins to take nude pre-race selfies to share later on Instagram.
Eventually, I stopped seeing naked people and just saw people.
There’s no denying the fact that you’ll notice how every person’s forbidden fruit is different from yours at first, but it stops being a big deal. You simply don’t see a difference between the woman who had the double mastectomy and the woman who has breast implants and a perfect tan (although, admittedly, the “perfect” looking people are few and far between).
So, let me back up a bit and give you some context about why I decided to register for a naked 5k. It’ll help you understand the amount of courage I had to muster up in order to show up for myself.
My entire life, I was obese (morbidly obese, even).
At my highest, I weighed 300 pounds. Speaking strictly only for myself, I can tell you I had low self-worth. I put on a good show of pretending to be strong (I really hate that word, by the way) and well put together. But inside, I hated everything about myself. I hated the family I came from; I hated my stupid ideas; I hated how boring I thought I was. And I especially hated my body. I felt like everything about me was wrong and disgusting.
In 2009, I made the decision to lose 150 pounds and get healthier (even if it killed me in the process). I thought it would magically change everything I hated about myself and all of a sudden, I would be a brand new person.
Interesting fact: it didn’t change much about me.
I continued to put on a show of pretending I was strong and had my ducks in a row. I did things like running marathons, climbing a mountain, and jumping out of a perfectly good airplane to prove that I could do anything I set my mind to. But when it comes down to it, those were all mental and physical feats. I still had not dealt with many emotional challenges of life. You know, those silly little things that seem to dictate whether or not we’ll self-sabotage and hold ourselves back from the life we deserve.
After losing 150 pounds, my body didn’t look anything like I thought it would. In fact, there were many times I longed for the luscious 300-pound body I used to have. The one that didn’t have loose skin. The one that had a full bosom and belly to match the bottom half evenly. This was one of my biggest sources of emotional discomfort.
Over the last seven years of maintaining my weight loss, I’ve grown to accept myself (and my body) more and more. The process looks different for everyone. For me, it came from giving up trying to be strong all of the time and instead embracing honesty and vulnerability of who I am and what makes me really awesome.
So, running naked was a natural next step for me. I spent too long proving I was perfect and strong. Now it was time to show I could be vulnerable and love myself for who I am (rather than who people think I am).
There’s always a tremendous sense of pride and accomplishment that accompanies the experience of crossing a finish line. But this is the very first time I also felt an outpour of love and acceptance as my husband and I ran side by side in the last sprint to the finish… totally naked. There were literally hundreds of naked strangers cheering, clapping, using noisemakers, and giving us high fives to welcome us to the ranks of “naked finisher” with them.
No one could see it, but beneath my sunglasses, there were tears in my eyes.
It’s not often in your life that large groups of people openly accept you and cheer for you despite what your body looks like or your physical ability. I’ve run many races, and that kind of genuine love and acceptance just isn’t there in the crowd. My heart was breaking wide open as the photographer snapped my finisher photo.
Through this experience, I’ve learned if you want to accept your body for what it is, not only do you have to accept yourself first, but going to a nudist ranch pretty much seals the deal. You don’t have to lose weight to fit in. You don’t have to firm up your “trouble” areas. And you don’t have to wax down there if you don’t want to.
Social nudism isn’t about seeing and proving; it’s about experiencing.
Everyone is naked and vulnerable. When no one is hiding behind masks, it makes it much easier to accept one another and yourself. There’s no need for sarcasm, telling everyone how much money you make, and comparing your belief systems to see if someone is worth talking to.
At the end of the day, I walked away a winner.
Not only did I defeat something that made me emotionally uncomfortable for so long, but I took home a first place medal for my age group. And who cares how unflattering my race photos turn out to be?
Would you ever run (or walk) a naked 5k or go to a nudist ranch to heal your body image issues?
If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.