Community Roundup: Body Image and Running Safety

What's hot on the message boards this week

Wondering if you should still be taking vitamins? Not sure how to keep yourself safe while running at night? Trying to stave off a poor body image? So are we. From killer vitamins to feeling bad about your body, here are the topics that have members buzzing on the Health & Fitness message boards this week. Body image blogger Virginia Sole-Smith reported on a study that found -- surprise! -- it’s not your body mass index that determines how you feel about your body, it’s how you believe others view you. Sorry to be such a stickler, but isn’t that precisely the definition of body image? From the American Heritage dictionary: body image n. The subjective concept of one's physical appearance based on self-observation and reactions of others. Way to go, scientists. Regardless, the post struck a chord with readers for other reasons. On the Fitness & Health boards, members chimed in on how they feel about their bodies.

“I've read that what you were like at 14 is how you see yourself later in life. I was pudgy at 14 and still see myself as that, even when people tell me I'm tiny. While compliments or criticisms from people can temporarily affect how I feel, it's always temporary,” says member jeanwl.

Shebeest takes the “glass half full” approach to her body. “I concentrate on what my body can do rather than what it can't.”

Like my no-nonsense mom used to say when I’d complain about my thighs, “Be happy you have legs for walking.”

Over on the Running Woman board, the ladies are discussing the pros and cons of pepper spray. Now that it’s getting darker earlier, it’s tough to get a run or walk in while it’s still light outside. Member lightningrod wanted to know, what measures, if any, other women take to feel safe.

Turns out, quite a few women carry pepper spray when they run.

“I carry [pepper spray] in my hand when I run. When I'm out, I keep it unlocked and my thumb on the trigger. Pretty sure I'll pepper spray myself some day, but better safe than sorry,” says tess2009.

I8mypaste doesn’t have her finger on the trigger, but keeps it hooked on her Spibelt -- a sort of baby-sized fanny pack for runners -- when she’s out alone.

Jeanwl, afraid she’ll spray herself, says she’s more interested in a self-defense class -- and is waiting for the taser app on her iPhone. “I honestly think that if I were to carry pepper spray or a taser, I’d be more dangerous to those around me than a criminal.”

As someone who had pepper spray in college, I can affirm that risk. In trying to convince a friend who was afraid of walking home alone to borrow my pepper spray, I demonstrated how easy it is to use, and ended up having the wind blow a fine mist of it right back in my face. It wasn’t enough to send me screaming to the pavement, but it did make me think twice about spraying it again.

Last week, I saw my neighbor, who’s a man, head out for his daily run at 4:15 a.m. His runs usually take him around the park in Brooklyn -- not exactly the most populated or safe place to be running at 4 a.m. I had to wonder if women feel safe going out for a jog that early in the morning -- pepper spray or not -- and if it would be considered foolhardy for a woman to go out alone at that hour. Add to that the fact that there has been a rash of attempted rapes in our neighborhood over the past few months. I happened to be outside at that hour because my German shepherd was sick. It was so quiet and peaceful outside that I could see why it would be so tempting to go running at that early. And, for the first time probably ever, I felt jealous that I wasn’t a man.

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