I was in 4th grade. It was a hot spring day at elementary school. We were trying to remain as cool as possible in the heat of the classroom — wearing light t-shirts and shorts. Working together on a school project around a large table. That was when I heard it. “Thunder Thighs.” It hit hard. And then the boy’s laugh, followed by giggles from the others around the table. Yah – they were laughing at me. At my thighs.
I don’t think I need to describe what that kind of name-calling feels like. We have all been there. Right? But name-calling is not the point of this writing. Rather, this moment defined the beginning of my shame about my legs, especially my thighs. As silly as it sounds, this moment was why I refused to wear shorts to school, no matter the temperature. This is why I hesitated to join the soccer team, because the uniform required us to wear shorts. This was why I asked my Mom to buy the book, “Thin Thighs in 30 Days.” This was the source of my absolute joy when long Bermuda shorts were popularized in the 1980’s so I could cool off again!
I was in my second year of college. It was a hot spring day. I was lying on a blanket in the grass with a boy I had a crush on. The sun was shining. We were getting to know one another. I was wearing long shorts but because I was lying down, the shorts had slid down without me noticing. My thighs were showing. He pointed to my thigh, just above the knee, where the quadriceps muscle makes a nice curve from the outside of the leg toward the knee. “Look how strong your legs are!” I was mortified and flattered at the same time. I had spent years trying to hide my thighs from people. What? Are you kidding me? How can thighs as huge as mine be anything to be proud of?
I was living in Michigan with the man I would one day marry. It was a gorgeous, sunny spring day. Jim and I were buying a set of mountain bikes. I took off on my bike to try it out. Riding out of the parking lot, heading straight to a little hill nearby — my favorite riding is UPHILL. The bike shop owner said to Jim, “Those thighs were made for biking.” He was impressed with my athleticism.
So here I am at 47 years of age, wondering about my thighs. Are they beautiful? Are they powerful? Are they attractive? Do I love them? Is it ok to let my thighs show either way? Why do I care? And why on earth did I allow these 3 different boys/men define the value of my thighs for me? Sounds ridiculous, right? But that is exactly what I did.
I wish I could wrap this up with a brilliant explanation to help all of us who struggle with our body value. I know this: When I am with people who love me & make me laugh, when I am training with my friends & we are encouraging one another, when a stranger reaches out to me, when I FEEL strong and confident — it just does not matter.
I also know this: For those who know & love me, your natural instinct will be to reach out and tell me that my thighs are beautiful. I love that about my friends. You help my eyes to see — thank you for that. I hope I can do the same for you.
It took more than 30 days, but I am transitioning from Thunder Thighs to Athletic Thighs. I accept the great challenge of moving toward more body acceptance & love. And I am prepared to support those around me who are on the same journey.