Denver's done a fantastic job of making itself one of the most desirable places to live in the country--but that doesn't mean it's all bluebird skies, puppies playing in the park, and powder days. Scratch beneath the shiny, happy surface of the Mile High City, and you might be surprised what you find.
The Silent Treatment
The unavoidable pressure to be Colorado-fit
By Natasha Gardner
Maybe I should run another marathon,” I say, casually. We’re nearing the turnaround point of our hike and my husband, Chris, has gone silent. He’s heard this speech before, and he’s not taking my thinly veiled bait. “I just want to be more fit,” I say. “I just want to see if I can run a marathon again.” No response. “I’m not doing this to lose weight,” I insist. Silence.
I keep babbling until I start to sound vapid and superficial, even to myself. Plus, I’m lying: Training for another marathon would be about losing weight. Every time we hit a trail or go for a jog, we always encounter these trim, super-fit women, those Rocky Mountain hotties with cut arms, firm glutes, and flat stomachs. And I envy them.
I like my body. Heck, I even take pride in being above all this self-doubt. Still, sometimes I obsess about having thighs like the ultrarunners who pass me during my jogs through City Park. I plot to cut back carbs or add miles, or I get angry with myself for letting this self-doubt and envy subtly creep in. When I lived in New York, I never felt compelled to shrink my body to the stick-thin model-type that seemed to be everywhere. There, the pressure to be thin was so pervasive that it was easy to rebel against.
Here, the strain is a slow, inescapable burn. Colorado women one-up each other all the time. What’s your time in a half-marathon? How many miles did you run last night? What are you training for? How many fourteeners have you climbed this year? These seemingly innocuous conversations hide an ugly truth: We’re still talking about body image, comparing our thighs and waistlines without ever mentioning weight. And the avoidance of this underlying truth can be even more damaging.
Our state’s infatuation with fitness can be beautiful and healthy, but it can also be grotesque. Too often, I see women with breastplates that stick out so much I can count their ribs. I see clavicles that resemble violin bows. True, fewer Colorado women than the national average are likely to have a potentially life-threatening eating disorder, but we still struggle, fight, or obsess about what we eat, how much we’ve exercised, or how many inches we’ve gained or lost. We’re embracing a no-win battle.
I never thought I was one of these obsessives, but that doesn’t mean I’m above it. Chris and I keep trudging on the path, in silence. I’m not going to run another marathon, let alone become an ultramarathoning, Ironman-triathloning, rock-climbing fanatic. And if I did, I certainly wouldn’t do it to look Colorado-thin. But we both know we’ll have this one-sided exchange again—and again.