I came across this photo on Facebook today and was immediately inspired. The woman, Jackie Stringer, was featured in a cool site called Swim Bike Mom that helps to motivate women of all shapes and sizes to “just keep moving forward.” How awesome, I thought, that this woman is out there competing in a triathlon. But, sadly, not everyone thought the same thing. There were some haters who just couldn’t stop themselves from fat-shaming this woman.
Swim Bike Mom wrote:
I was absolutely SHOCKED at some of the reactions. 90% of everyone said, “LIKE” and “way to go.” But then I got some hateful comments that I immediately deleted. Then some snarky ”how did she ‘let’ herself get this way” and some elitist crap. I was shocked.
But, in the spirit of a true athlete, Jackie responded with a positive I’m-going-to-keep-going attitude:
Thank you Swim Bike Mom for posting this [picture of me.] I am humbled and proud to be an inspiration and actually quite appalled at how some of the posters are treating this. I used to weigh 415 lbs. [and] walking to the mailbox was a struggle. Some people don’t just “let themselves go” …[they] have actual medical issues that prevent normal every day activities. Say what you will but I got off my ass and did it.
That’s right, unlike too many other people in this country, you did it, and that should be celebrated.
She went on to say that she actually feels sorry for people who cannot celebrate athletes of every shape and size:
And I consistently do it. I do it for me, not you …and I Inspire and amaze myself every day at how far I am able to push my body mentally [and] physically. I feel bad for people who can’t look at any picture of ANY athlete and not be inspired.
There are too many women who feel self-conscious about their bodies and are afraid or intimidated to be seen at the gym or in public working out. Jackie, I hope, will change that for a lot of people. If this inspires just one woman to say, if she can do it, so can I, then I’m sure Jackie will be thrilled. Because it IS OK to work out and to compete in a race, no matter what your size, shape, age or ability. As I’ve often said before, most of the time, no one is looking at others anyway when they are mid-race or mid-workout. And if I did happen to see Jackie or someone like her out there, I would certainly be inspired. I often find the athletes who have incredible stories or are overcoming incredible odds the ones who are most inspiring. And finishing first or last doesn’t really matter–it’s simply a matter of finishing. It’s just too bad that not everyone can see that.
Jackie seems to agree and went on to say:
Honestly, hearing how this photo has inspired folks, I hope it goes viral! I want everyone to know that it IS ok to be any size and still compete.
If you can’t applaud every athlete, especially those of us who it takes twice as long to finish and twice as much effort to move twice as much weight across the line, then I feel sad for you that you can’t appreciate the beauty in life and everyone’s journey.
Good for you! Let’s continue applauding EVERY athlete.