The Mental Health Runner: Body Image

Body image is one of the underlying foundations for numerous mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and paranoiait’s also one of “those things” which can’t simply be changed with a snap of your fingers.

It is estimated that 30 million American citizens will suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their life. With a population of 327 million, that means there is just under a 1 in 10 chance (9.17% if we are being specific) that an individual will be affected at some point in their life.

Looking into the statistics further, 48% of men surveyed are dissatisfied with their own personal appearance. I believe this number could be higher, as I think men may be more embarrassed about admitting they have an issue with their appearance, or already suffer with an eating disorder in general.

Fat, thin, little or large: derogatory remarks should NEVER be used as a weapon against another human being. The following pictures are not to show off that I am in control of my demons, these are pictures to hopefully empower everyone to not let anything get in the way of happiness. For me, my message is that although I run, I don’t need to have a six pack to get out there and do it.

The fact is, we’re all human and come in all shapes and sizes; and we are all here for the long run. My biggest issue is people who are wanting to exercise and get in shape but are too embarrassed by their own self-image. This is what I’d like to change. Even runners all come in different shapes and sizes and we run for the love of the sport, the challenge and most importantly ourselves. 

The running community is nothing like anything else I’ve ever been part of. No matter our ability, we are all here cheering each other on.

For me, being bullied most of my life for being a bigger guy led me down a road I had never been before. I lost 105 pounds of weight and yet I still had the feeling like I was fat – that’s when it got dangerous. Daily weigh-ins, pinch checking my belly and constantly looking in the mirror took me down the route of an eating disorder where I would punish myself by not eating.

A year later I’m back on a varied diet, I’ve put some weight on and I’m happy! I run, I laugh and most importantly I am in control.

It’s easier said than done, but never let anyone get you down through bullying. You’re entitled to your life as much as they are, if they want to waste it looking at you – let them. As long as you can look back and see “I kicked ass” you’re on the right track.

What would be your words of encouragement be to help anyone to get out and run – or even better help inspire those suffering and empower them too?

Thomas Dunning is the Mental Health Runner, an author, speaker, and mental health advocate.