As Trisha discussed on Sunday, last week the women of Academichic hosted Dress Your Best Week, an event that encouraged readers to dress to highlight their best features in lieu of the usual dressing to minimize real or perceived “figure flaws.” The discussion in the comments section about whether biking has created any “best” body parts was both funny and inspiring. Strong legs and backside, toned arms (for those climbers) and waist, healthy lungs with fewer asthma problems – all of these benefits were listed by more than one person. The consensus is that bicycling makes one feel better physically – no surprise there! – but also feel better about themselves.
In our bipolar society, where the most obese population in the world is inundated with dangerous images of “beauty” by the media and where “fit” people drive to the gym to run on the treadmill, millions are locked in a struggle with their bodies. Even healthy and otherwise happy young women waste immeasurable time fixated on perceived flaws and self-loathing. For evidence of this, read Courtney Martin’s Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters, on the frightening new normalcy of hating your body.
The solution is a lifestyle change that favors simplicity over excess and regards the human body as a tool rather than merely a decoration. A big part of such a lifestyle is active transportation, especially cycling. Riding a bicycle as daily transportation can radically shift both how you feel and how you feel about yourself. The benefits are the same that make sports so good for adolescents, especially girls. Transportation bicycling is even better than sports, as there is no competition or pressure to perform, and cycling fits seamlessly into every day life. Free of the need to carve out time in your day to work out, you are simultaneously free of the self-loathing that accompanies the failure to do so.
When your body carries you several miles to and from work every day, you appreciate your body as a tool and a workhorse. When your lungs fill with air and your heart pumps energetically, you know your body is good, without having to examine it in the mirror, searching for flaws. If society declares that your body is not ideal because you are not skinny enough or muscular enough, or your hips or thighs are too big, you know that society is wrong because your body works for you admirably every day.
Bicycling is not a wonder drug or a total solution to the deeply entrenched problem of body image and self-esteem, but it is a small change that individuals can make to live a healthier and happier life. Plus, riding a bike is fun!