Body Image, Weight Gain and COVID

Oh hello, it’s been a while.

Apologies for the radio silence on here! I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t posted in over seven months.

Why not, I hear you ask?!

Self-doubt, angst, social anxiety, the usual. Fear has been holding me back, and we all know that the biggest obstacle to success is fear. Luckily, I am now fearless like a lion (I’m not, but I have missed blogging, so here we are). Without further ado…

Weight gain has been a focal point of the COVID lockdown; you’ve probably heard jokes about the “quarantine 15” or terminology such as “lockdown bod”. Unsurprisingly, I don’t find jokes with underlying messages of fatphobia particularly amusing.

I have previously written about why you shouldn’t comment on someone’s weight (whether that be weight loss or weight gain), and this is relevant now more than ever.

Not only have the jokes about weight gain (i.e. fatphobia) increased considerably over recent months, the COVID lockdown has seen a sharp rise in eating disorders. Humour that relies on weight stigma masks diet culture’s connection to body shame, misogyny, and classism. “I need to socially distance myself from the kitchen LOLZZZZZ” might seem like a light-hearted, throwaway comment, but it further stigmatises weight gain and is highly triggering for many.

I’ve experienced varying levels of negative thoughts about my body for as long as I can remember, and like many, this has been amplified over lockdown. Every anxiety has been intensified, and comparison is at an all-time high.

It takes time, patience, and conscious effort to undo the body shaming that has been picked up over the years. Having previously been diagnosed with potential hypothalamic amenorrhea (potential as my contraception at the time may or may not have been masking an underlying abnormality), consistently working on my relationship with food, exercise and my body is a priority.

I know that I’m happier and healthier at my current size vs. four years ago, but the constant influx of “quarantine 15” posts have brought up old insecurities and shame.

As always, I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this (unless your thoughts are steeped in fatphobia, in which case I would kindly ask you to bugger off).

Has lockdown had an impact on your body image? How have you dealt with this?

Mell x

Oversensitive

‘I don’t want other people to decide who I am. I want to decide that for myself.’ *

“You’re oversensitive, and other people (men) feel the same way about you”; I recently received this feedback from a colleague, and I have been mulling over it for a few days. This was delivered under the guise of ‘constructive feedback’, and my first reaction was to take this criticism on board and change my behaviours accordingly.  

After some contemplation and conversations with others, I’ve come to the realisation that this was not constrictive feedback – it was an accusation.

Women are soooOOOOOooooOOOOOO

Oversensitive

Crazy

Hysterical

Irrational

Dramatic

Etc. Etc. I’m sure you’ve heard it all before – I certainly have.

There are many confusing contradictions when it comes to women’s behaviour and emotions, and sometimes bringing up issues of oppression can feel overwhelming and exhausting. What we really mean by oversensitive or crazy is “she displayed some form of emotion, and this made me feel uncomfortable”.

Accusing someone of being too sensitive is not only patronising and dismissive, it’s downright manipulative.

The comment that my colleague made sparked feelings of uncertainty. It made me question myself, and the validity of my emotions. Essentially, I was letting somebody dictate how I was supposed to feel.

Your feelings are your feelings and being sensitive is not a character flaw. Your emotional state won’t magically disappear because a man has advised you to modify your reactions – in a way that suits him and his disposition, of course.

So, the next time someone accuses me of being oversensitive, I will take this as a compliment.

“I’m too sensitive”

I am empathetic.

I am compassionate.

I feel things deeply.

I am assertive.

I have strong and healthy boundaries.

*Emma Watson

My Top Three Podcasts of 2019

Back by popular demand (not really), this was one of my favourite posts to write last January, and 2019 turned out to be an even more nuanced year of podcasts.

I thought I’d share some of the podcasts that I have consistently enjoyed over the past year – let me know if you give any of them a listen!

1. The High Low

Launched in 2016, I was a little late to the game with this one. Piers Morgan described The High Low as “a couple of braying posh girls talking gibberish”, which obviously made me want to listen to it even more!

The High Low explores and combines ‘high-brow’ and ‘low-brow’ culture; Dolly Alderton and Pandora Sykes discuss current affairs and pop-culture in a way that really resonates with me.

Some highlights include:

  • Instagram’s Proposed Removal of The ‘Like’ Counter
  • We’ve Only Gone And Done It: A Deep-Dive Into Wagatha Christie
  • Why Mental Health Is Nothing To Do With Wellness, with Author Bella Mackie

2. Football, Feminism & Everything in-between

In this podcast, Grace Campbell (comedian and feminist activist) and her father, Alistair Campbell, (yes, that one) discuss…well, football, feminism and everything else in-between.

Part of the magic of this podcast is how varied each of the guests are, from Ed Miliband to Joey Barton; thus, their views of football and feminism are rarely the same.

I am, of course, a feminist, but I wouldn’t put myself into the football fan category (sorry Dad), therefore initially I was unsure whether I would be able to appreciate or relate to the conversations surrounding football. However, some of these discussions have been so thought provoking, and I’m beginning to understand how football can open up broader discussions around important topics – human connection, race and mental health to name a few.

Some highlights include:

  • The Scarlett and Richard Curtis One
  • The Julia Gillard One
  • The Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce One

3. Happy Place

Fearne Cotton’s podcast now plays a significant role in my morning routine; it’s so relaxing and easy to listen to.

Fearne interviews an eclectic line up of guests, sharing how they find joy and how they deal with some of life’s challenging moments. A lot of the conversations are around mental health and spiritual strength; ultimately, each episode explores what happiness means – which of course is highly subjective.

I won’t pretend that I’ve loved every episode, as some of the guest speakers have been a litttttttle (extremely) irritating. However, overall, this podcast is a true celebration of life; it feels very authentic, and unsurprisingly Fearne is an excellent podcast host.

Some highlights include:

  • Mary Berry
  • Matt Haig
  • Dawn French

And so the rise of the podcast continues, as does my podcast obsession… please do let me know if you have any recommendations!

Body Image in Running, Inspired by Mary Cain

* Disclaimer – I wrote this a few weeks ago but wanted to hold off posting until my blog revamp was complete. However, my blog still looks like a dog has vomited all over it, and the revamp is taking longer than expected, so here you go. *

The notion of ‘smaller is better’ and ‘thinner is faster’ is nothing new when it comes to long distance and middle-distance running; however, Mary Cain’s recent statement has really got me thinking about how body image in running is portrayed.

If you haven’t already, have a watch of Cain’s video for the New York Times, in which she speaks about the emotional and physical abuse she suffered as a result of constant pressure to lose weight whilst training with Alberto Salazar at the Nike Oregon Project. Cain didn’t get her period for three years and she broke five bones. She went on to become depressed, and experienced suicidal thoughts.

Whilst Cain’s story is horrifying, it’s not particularly unusual; it’s a narrative that I have heard numerous times. “I got caught in a system designed by and for men, which destroys the bodies of young girls”; one of the main problems is that females are being trained in the same way that men are being trained – it goes without saying that this is insane. I have many issues with Nike, one of which is the brand’s treatment of its female athletes – but that’s a story for another time.

Women are praised when they work on their bodies, and the myth that intensive exercise creates the ‘perfect’ body shape is still prevalent. I mentioned in a previous post that I have been congratulated (on multiple occasions) by other runners on my weight. HOW is this still happening, and WHY does anyone think that this is acceptable?!

There’s no denying that body weight is one of multiple factors that affects performance, and for high-level athletes this is heightened. However, mental and physical health should be by far the most crucial factors.

It’s not surprising that many women go on to develop a dysfunctional relationship with food and training. My own relationship with food has been complicated, and comments made by friends and family have contributed to certain patterns of disordered eating that I now recognise as being unhealthy and unsustainable. Saying this, body confidence is a complex issue; you don’t simply wake up one morning and decide you are 100% comfortable in your own skin.

Sport-related body image issues can lead to amenorrhea, poor mental health, osteoporosis, infertility… I could go on. Managing this issue in the female running community is a huge task, and we have a long way to go. However, Cain’s video (alongside statements from other women who have shared their experiences) is a step in the right direction.

One major change that I have implemented is really focusing on the type of content that I’m exposed to – although of course, this is sometimes beyond our control. I personally find body positivity accounts unhelpful, but diversifying my feed and following accounts of a wide array of people who inspire me (rather than encouraging feelings of self-doubt) has been an overwhelmingly positive move.

There is no single acceptable body type when it comes to running – or when it comes to anything, obviously – so let’s keep the conversation going. Slow progress is better than no progress!

Three Things I’ve Learned in the lead up to my first Triathlon

In precisely 11 days, I will have (hopefully!) completed my first triathlon.

I haven’t stuck to my training plan; in fact, I haven’t even looked at my training plan. I could potentially regret this when it comes to triathlon day, and in general I would always advocate following a structured training plan.

However, the reason I’m taking part in this triathlon is purely to see whether I enjoy it. I don’t have a goal in mind; therefore, a plan isn’t necessary for me right now. Please don’t mistake my lack of structured plan as a lack of motivation, as that is definitely not the case! This is also not to say that I haven’t but the work in – I have, but in my own disjointed, unscheduled, rather messy way.

So, here are a few things I’ve learned over the past few months…

  1. I don’t dislike cycling (i.e. I really like cycling but don’t want to admit it)

Whilst running will always be my one true love, I am beginning to find an unexpected joy in cycling.

There is something liberating about riding through the spectacular Surrey hills. Running up and down a hill is challenging, but it’s just not as exciting because you will never achieve enough speed – and, unless you run ultramarathons, you will never go as far.

Unlike running, cycling is a low impact sport; it’s easy on the joints and great for building muscle, especially in your quads, glutes and calves. This has been great post fibular fracture, and I have generally felt stronger since incorporating cycling into my workout schedule.

2. The cost of running vs. triathlon

As a sport, running is relatively accessible; compared to triathlon (and pretty much every other sport), you need a lot less equipment.

I have been ever so lucky as I’ve borrowed some key items including my wetsuit, tri-suit and race belt – plus my bike and helmet were hand-me-downs. If I did not have access to these, the cost to train for my first triathlon could easily have been in the thousands!!

This does not even take into the consideration the cost of the triathlon itself, which is (understandably) pricier than any running race I’ve ever participated in. The triathlon that I am taking part in is a large-scale event, taking place in historic grounds. It’s also in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – it’s no surprise that these events are so expensive to organise and execute. However, it’s still a barrier to entry which I cannot simply disregard.

Whilst there are alternative methods to getting hold of lower cost equipment (e.g. buying second hand or hiring out kit), I would still argue that triathlon is not an accessible sport. I believe that participating in sport should be available to all those who wish to partake, not just those (like me) who are privileged.

3. I am good enough

Although one of my goals for this year was to be kinder to myself, I often let negative thoughts take over.

‘I’m not strong enough. I’m not smart enough. I’m not good enough’; this is an unhelpful internalised message, but unfortunately it’s a thought process that I re-visit time and time again.

I have been experiencing a fair amount of triathlon related imposter syndrome, and whilst training for a triathlon has not miraculously changed my mindset, it has made me re-think the way that I speak to myself.

‘I CAN’.

‘I WILL’.

*Insert other melodramatic goal orientated statement/positive mantra of your choice*

But in all seriousness, two months ago I refused to get on the bike unless someone was riding with me, and the thought of swimming in open water terrified me (it still does, but less so!)

Stop doubting yourself. Take a deep breath. You are good enough. YOU ARE BEYONCE**

**Don’t follow Beyoncé’s ridiculous 22-day diet plan though. Still disappointed in you for promoting this Queen Bee.

Diet Culture in the Health and Fitness Industry

Having recently received yet another targeted ad inviting me to take part in an ‘eight week summer fat blast challenge’, I wanted to share my thoughts on why I will always say “no thanks” to diet culture.

Diet culture is all around us. It’s plastered over social media, at the gym, on food packaging, in conversations with friends… it is EVERYWHERE. This is an industry that needs you to doubt yourself, simply because there are billions of £££ to be made from our insecurities.

What is diet culture?

Diet culture describes a society that places value on being a certain size and weight. Essentially, it promotes the concept that health = thinness, and it oppresses people who don’t match up with this image. It displays itself in numerous ways, some more subtle and sneaky than others. A few examples include:

  • Food advertised as ‘guilt-free’
  • ‘Clean eating’ social media accounts, and the epidemic of ‘clean eating’ in general
  • Fit teas/ skinny teas/ detox teas
  • Our language around food, e.g. labelling foods as good or bad
  • Demonising food groups, e.g. ‘I’m not coeliac but I won’t eat gluten because it is THE DEVIL’

Why is diet culture problematic?

You may view a fat blast challenge or a ‘guilt free’ chocolate bar as being harmless, and I understand why; we’ve been conditioned to believe that health = thinness. That thinness = happiness, success, superiority. That our self-worth is directly linked to our physical appearance.

I used to have a very unhealthy relationship with exercise. Five years ago, my sole reason for exercising was to burn calories so that I could drink all the wine and eat all the pizza without feeling guilty. Essentially, I was exercising because I hated my body.  

80 – 90% of the time I now have a healthy relationship with fitness; I fully appreciate that there are so many health benefits that exercise can have that aren’t directly linked to aesthetics. My mindset has shifted from ‘having’ to exercise to choosing to exercise, but of course this took time – a LONG time. I don’t want to oversimplify it by using phrases such as ‘exercise because you love your body, not because you hate it!’ or ‘just practice radical self-love!’ – not only is this patronising, but learning to navigate the pressures of diet culture is a lot more complex than this.  

How can you remove yourself from toxic diet culture?

The diet industry’s focus is (almost always) appearance based. This industry does not care about your physical health, and it most definitely does not care about your mental health.

Here are a few things that have helped me:

1.          Have a social media clean up

Unfollow the accounts that focus on dieting, ‘toning up’, or anything else that makes you doubt your self-worth. Basically, try not to consume content that impacts you in a negative way.

2.      Stop engaging in diet jokes

This is probably not the best example, given the fact that it is the middle of summer. However, I get sent this every year without fail, and it makes my blood BOIL:

I have also been tagged in the below meme three times this week:

I simply refused to engage in these discussions, regardless of whether it is a light-hearted joke or not. I will either leave the conversation or change the subject, because quite frankly it makes me uncomfortable.

3. Educate yourself

Take the time to educate yourself about the true links between health and weight. If, like me, you are a thin, white, cisgender, able-bodied person, I would encourage you to learn about the experiences of those who do not fit into diet cultures ‘ideal’.

Here are a few of my book/podcast recommendations:

Happy Fat by Sofie Hagen

Fat is a Feminist Issue by Susie Orbach

Food Psych Podcast by Christy Harrison

(Please do let me know if you have any further recommendations!)

Acknowledging that diet culture exists and that it’s an issue is the first step. This is just a tiny part of a much wider discussion, but I hope that it provides a useful insight into a culture that is so entrenched within our society.

Love Island, Body Image and Mental Health; Can Feminists Watch This Show?

With the new series of Love Island impending, I can’t deny that I’m looking forward to eight weeks of tacky reality tv at its finest. I am not being hyperbolic when I say I enjoy trash tv! The appeal of Love Island is clear; the drama, the incredibly attractive contestants, the potential romance, the unnecessary and (clearly often scripted) dramatic outbursts. 

Although I’m 99.9999% sure that I’ll be tuning into Love Island, I’m also very uncomfortable about the fact that I’m getting excited about such a vile show – and vile is an understatement. Matt Haig posted on Instagram a couple of days ago that Love Island is a public health risk, and I can’t disagree with this statement. 

The trolling of the contestants is vile. The body shaming is vile. The manipulated drama is vile (although of course, this is what keeps the ratings so high). The lack of diversity and representation is vile. The attitude towards women is vile.

The contestants represent a body type that, for many, is unattainable. This is stating the obvious. The bigger issue is that the women are immediately judged on what they look like; there is no mention of their career, their interests, their personality – and this can be damaging for both contestants and viewers.

According to recent research carried out by YouGov, one in five adults feel shame over their body image. The issue is even more prominent amongst teenagers; over a third of teenagers feel upset about their body image. It would be incredibly naïve to blame Love Island for this, but programmes of this nature certainly don’t help the matter…

It goes without saying that Love Island isn’t exactly intellectually stimulating material. People like trashy, superficial tv, therefore it’s unsurprising that Love Island is the most successful show on ITV2. I have read numerous articles exploring how Love Island is about more than superficial factors; it’s about friendship, love, loyalty, vulnerability etc., which to an extent I agree with. I’d still argue that the overarching theme is ‘trashy escapism’, but I’m starting to think that there could be slightly more to it than that.  

The underlying question here is ‘can feminists still enjoy Love Island’; clearly, I think they can, given the fact that I would identify myself as both a feminist and a person who watches Love Island.

This may be a controversial opinion, but I think that Love Island highlights certain areas that I, as a feminist, find interesting; the importance of female friendships, an exploration of relationships (albeit forged relationships), perceived expectations in a relationship. It portrays both men and women embracing their sexuality with confidence and having open and honest discussions about their feelings.

I’m aware that this is a contradictory post. I don’t know what the answer is, and I’m happy to admit this. I’m also aware that I’m speaking from a place of privilege; I am a 28-year-old, thin, white, cis-gendered female, and I’m at a point in my life where I’m fully aware that there are far more important things than my body fat percentage. However, if I had watched the show 10 years ago, I think it would have sparked all sorts of insecurities.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this (to clarify, I’m not interested on hearing whether you think the show is trash or not – we’ve already established that ultimately, it’s garbage).

Can you be both a feminist and a fan of Love Island? How dangerous are programmes such as Love Island when it comes to body image and mental health?

Spring has Sprung (Predictable); A New Chapter ft. Imposter Syndrome

Apologies for the incredibly cliché title (cue 86,472 ‘spring has sprung’ Instagram captions featuring 86,472 23-year-old females posing provocatively next to blossom trees), but it seemed apt for this post.

After spending a magical long weekend in Dubrovnik and taking the rest of this week off work, I’ve had some time to reflect on the past couple of weeks of marathon training (or lack of marathon training), and mentally prepare myself for a busy month ahead. Whilst I’m not going to ramble on about how spring brings about new growth, fresh starts, new beginnings etc., I do find this time of year very refreshing, and coincidentally this year the new season aligns with an exciting new chapter for me as a few days ago I moved into my new flat.

I cannot believe that I am now an actual REAL-LIFE home owner. It blows my mind. But, at the same time, it doesn’t really blow my mind given the fact that I have been saving up for over a decade to get to this stage.

On this note, I wanted to delve into imposter syndrome – definition: a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalised fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. I know a lot of women (and men, but predominantly women) who despite having accomplished great things, struggle with self-belief.

Although this may sound materialistic, my new flat is my greatest achievement. This is not related to my flat itself, although yessss I am excited to purchase unnecessary seahorse ornaments and bellow “NOT UNDER MY ROOF” if anyone dares wear shoes inside. It’s about the hard work and sacrifice that has gone into becoming a homeowner; completing my master’s degree whilst juggling a full-time job, the little sacrifices, and everything else that has led up to this point.

However, there is part of me that feels like a fraud. I feel guilty for my privilege, and the fact that I am lucky enough to be in a position where I can buy a property. Whenever someone asks me how I can afford to buy alone (which in my opinion is an intrusive question, and one that I am asked frequently) I always feel the need to reassure them that for the next few years at least money will be very tight, that the property prices in South London are far more affordable etc. Essentially, I am avoiding the question, when the simple and honest answer is that I worked hard and saved.

There is, of course, a fine line between humility and hubris. I truly believe that arrogance is one of the ugliest traits, and I would genuinely be mortified if anything in this post comes across as boastful or overly self-indulgent.

My point is that I am proud of what I have achieved, and I want to see more women celebrate their achievements – because you have EVERY right to celebrate, proudly and unapologetically.

International Women’s Day 2019

Every year there is the same inevitable and rather tiresome backlash that takes place around International Women’s Day, and this year was no different…

“Why should I celebrate International Women’s Day when there’s no International Men’s Day?!”

Firstly, there is an International Men’s Day, taking place annually on 19th November. The purpose of this day is to raise awareness of men’s well-being and to promote positive male role models. There is a strong focus on mental health problems, toxic masculinity and marginalised groups within men. Celebrated in over 60 countries, I can confirm that this day most definitely exists – and I think it’s a day of great importance.

Secondly, BORE OFF. The original aim of IWD is to celebrate “the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women”. IWD is a day of recognition, support and celebration, and it is essential – whether you agree with it or not.

#BalanceforBetter is the theme for this year’s IWD; to achieve full gender equality for women around the world. This initiative incorporates improving awareness of discrimination, celebrating women’s achievements, and a focus on reducing the pay gap between men and women.

There are, of course, many other issues that are being addressed. However, I wanted to highlight the global gender pay gap, as I have worked with people who have denied its existence. I have also worked with people who feel that because the pay gap is not prominent in their line of work, it’s simply not an issue. No matter how much you try to deny it Hortencia, the gender pay gap is not a mythical unicorn.

The more people that question the importance of the day just proves why we still need it. The gender pay gap has improved ever so slightly, and only six countries in the world provide men and women with equal legal work rights.

We live in a world where women and girls are still denied basic rights. There is so much work to be done, and I think it’s fantastic that IWD highlights this.

HOWEVER…the slight sceptic in me would like to point out that if you truly care about women’s rights, then you should demonstrate this every day as opposed to once per year. I’ve seen some highly questionable posts over the past few days from brands, ‘influencers’ and other individuals. IWD is not about supporting women one day per year, and it’s certainly not about giving or receiving gifts (SORRY, but it makes me feel a little bit queasy that this day is becoming commercialised. I received an email the other day titled ‘Five Budget-Friendly Gifts for International Women’s Day’…seriously?!)

Final thoughts: IWD does not end on March 8th.

My Top Three Podcasts of 2018

In the listening versus reading debate, I am far more partial to the latter – thus finding a podcast that truly engages me can be quite a task. That being said, there are so many fantastic podcasts out there.

Here are three of the best, in no particular order (that’s a lie as number one is definitely my no. 1).

1.Table Manners with Jessie Ware

This is my absolute favourite.

Table Manners has been described as ‘an ode to food’, which it is, but it’s also so much more. Jessie, along with her mother, Lennie, cooks a three-course meal for their celebrity guest. Whilst each episode is predominantly centred around the guest, what I love most about this podcast is the way Jessie interacts with Lennie – their relationship is so endearing and authentic.

Some highlights include:

  • Mel B
  • Ed Sheeran
  • Paloma Faith

A little suggestion for the next guest – PICK ME. I may not be a celebrity, but I do love delicious food, plus I think we’d have a really great time.

2. The Guilty Feminist

Feminist podcasts are becoming a crowded space, but every single episode of The Guilty Feminist (that I’ve listened to – which is most of them!) has been thought-provoking, humorous, sad and infuriating all at once.

Deborah Frances-White explores a wide range of topics including female friendship, toxic masculinity, diet culture and gender stereotypes. There’s nothing more relatable, and in my opinion, there’s no better podcast that explores the complexities of modern day feminism in an honest but light-hearted manner.

Some highlights include:

  • Feminists Don’t Wear Pink and Other Lies
  • Repeal the Eighth with Helen Linehan
  • Mental Health with Milly Thomas

3. Stuff You Should Know

Hosted by Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant, this podcast is essentially about how things work. This covers politics, sociology, history, current affairs and many other topics.

I have a love/hate relationship with Stuff You Should Know. Josh and Chuck go off on a tangent frequently, and whilst some might view this as authentic (i.e. it sounds natural and conversational), I find it sloppy and irritating. I don’t want to listen to 45 minutes of unengaging banter and inside jokes (sorry Josh and Chuck).

However, I really enjoy learning alllll the things, and this podcast has taught me many things!

Some highlights include:

  • How Grief Works
  • How Search and Rescue Dogs Work
  • How Kleptomania Works

If you have any podcast recommendations, please do let me know!

Gender Inequality in Cross-Country Running

When I was 6, I went to my first ever Arsenal match with my Dad. I can remember the day SO clearly, partly because my Dad covered my ears throughout to block out any “rude words” shouted by other fans, but also because this is the first time that I was exposed to any form of gender gap.

I struggled to concentrate on the game as I was too busy asking questions about Arsenal Ladies FC;

“Can we go and watch the ladies next time?”

“Why have I never seen Arsenal Ladies on tv?”

“But WHYYYYY does nobody go and watch the ladies?!”

I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness that at the time I didn’t really understand and proceeded to sulk the whole way home. Twenty years later, I felt a similar sense of sadness upon discovering that women’s races are often significantly shorter than men’s at cross country events. *

In January this year, I along with 3000 others signed a petition calling for equal distances among men and woman. I’m unsure as to what (if any) steps have been taken since the petition was put into action, although a bit of Googling has resulted in a very vague update that UK Athletics is working towards equal distances.

I want to make it clear that I am a HUGE fan of cross-country. I love that it’s not elitist, I love the general excitement/team spirit/build up, and most of all I love running through the mud and sludge. I am getting mini palpitations of excitement just writing this!

However, the unequal distances baffle me. I have questioned this matter many times and am always greeted with a response along the lines of “well, it’s a very traditional sport.” I’ve also been informed that a lot of male runners would prefer a shorter distance… no comment.

There is no logical reason that I can think of that justifies this discrepancy, and quite frankly it worries me that 6-year-old Mell watching the football feels the same as 27-year-old Mell running cross-country.

*This post focuses specifically on cross-country running in England. In Scotland and the World Cross Country Championships, equal distances have been implemented. 

Am I a “loud woman?”

A couple of weeks ago I read an article* about “loud women” (whatever that means) and immediately felt compelled to write about it. Whilst I wouldn’t necessarily class myself as a “loud woman’” and obviously this is a ridiculous phrase, there were many aspects of this article that resonated with me and I wanted to share a couple of them.

  • Loud shaming

I can’t count the amount of times I have been told to use my ‘inside voice’, both as a child and as an adult. Approximately 70% of the time the person telling me to be a little bit quieter has a very valid point; of course, there are certain situations where one should be quiet, and I definitely need to learn how to whisper!

However, being told to use my ‘inside voice’ always brings about a familiar sense of shame – the feeling that I have spoken out of turn or embarrassed myself in some way, when in fact this is just my voice, booming out like a big old foghorn.

Am I being ridiculous? Am I being over-sensitive? Perhaps, but I do believe that loud shaming is an expression that should be recognised and acknowledged.

  • What is a loud man?

Obviously loud men do exist, but I think the word ‘loud’ has a different meaning across genders. If I were to simplify it, I would say that loud men are confident, go-getters, intelligent and attractive. Loud women, on the other hand, are overpowering, intimidating and somewhat hostile…perhaps even irritating?

I am being rather presumptuous here, as I have based this purely on personal experience, and the experiences of those close to me.

Therefore, I would love to open this discussion to a wider audience. I would also be really interested in hearing your thoughts in the context of running** (of course!) so please do get in touch!

*The article was written by Viv Groskop, author of How to Own the Room: Women and the Art of Brilliant Speaking

**Gender equality in sport has always been a controversial topic, and one that I am interested in exploring in later posts.

My blog has been nominated for the Running Awards; if you’ve enjoyed my posts, I would really appreciate it if you could take a moment to vote for me. Simply go to Blog (Personal) > Mell Telka > VOTE VOTE VOTE.