Team GB middle-distance runner Eilish McColgan insists she is unfazed by comments made about her physique on a social media post, declaring: “my body is healthy and strong.”
The athlete was the subject of body shaming messages from trolls when a picture of her was posted to Instagram by her sponsor ASICS.
Speaking exclusively to Yahoo Sport UK, the European Championship silver medalist outlined her disappointment with the remarks.
The 28-year-old explained: “I'm a professional athlete. This is what some professional athletes look like. This is what some of the general population look like. My body is healthy and strong.
“Of course I am skinny. I always will be and I'm cool with that.”
The sportswear brand had uploaded a picture of the athlete with the caption, “For @eilishmccolgan, training is a place to be free, clear your mind - escape. That sense of improving... of getting faster.”
— ASICS Europe (@ASICSeurope) August 9, 2019
But the post sparked some incendiary comments. One read, “damn, that’s skinny”, while another said “yes... bit too much.”
These responses prompted the Scot, daughter of former world champion Liz McColgan who acts as her coach, to hit back.
“Nothing pisses me off more than someone making a comment that I’m ‘too skinny’,” McColgan tweeted along with a screen grab of the replies.
“I’m naturally small-always have been. Some people are just slim! I doubt they would comment on someone larger than ‘average’. I’m a healthy athlete and human. Go body shame elsewhere!”
Nothing pisses me off more than someone making a comment that I'm 'too skinny'. I'm naturally small-always have been. Some people are just slim! 😠
I doubt they would comment on someone slightly larger than 'average'. I'm a healthy athlete and human. Go body shame elsewhere!🙄 pic.twitter.com/TmQtghTemn
— Eilish Mccolgan (@EilishMccolgan) August 12, 2019
Reflecting on why she felt compelled to act, McColgan explained how she wanted to more campaigns to feature athletes of all body types.
“To be honest, I'm actually really lucky on social media that I don't receive a lot of trolling,” she explained.
“It may be one or two comments every now and again but the only reason I spoke out was because I was angry that they had commented under my sponsors post.
“It was the first time ASICS had promoted one of their own professional athletes rather than using a model or an influencer like the other sports brands typically do.
“I was honoured to be featured and to be recognised for my performances, so it annoyed me to see the first comment on there was 'damn she's skinny' followed by a 'yes, too much' rather than acknowledging my credentials in sport.
“It annoyed me because I want sports brands to be able to represent all types of runners and body shapes, not just what society deem to be the perfect image.”
It's no surprise that young girls feel the need to get boob jobs, big plastic arses and contour themselves down to their kneecaps to fit what's deemed the 'ideal' body.
If you're healthy and happy then don't worry about anyone else's opinion! It's YOUR fabulous body. ❤
— Eilish Mccolgan (@EilishMccolgan) August 12, 2019
McColgan’s has always been naturally slim, although she admitted it was something which affected her confidence when she was younger.
In one of her tweets, McColgan explained she isn’t surprised young girls feel the need to change the natural look of their bodies.
The two time Olympian tweeted: “It’s no surprise that young girls feel the need to get boob jobs, big plastic arses and contour themselves down to their kneecaps to fit what’s deemed the ‘ideal’ body.
“If you’re healthy and happy then don’t worry about anyone else’s opinion. It’s your fabulous body.”
McColgan hopes highlighting the issue will encourage young people to accept their natural body shapes, after she was inundated with messages of support following her posts.
McColgan added: “I was very unconfident at school because I was always very tall and lean and never had a 'womanly' figure but now I've accepted that's me.
“That's the way I am. I'm confident in my body now. It's a strong body. A healthy body. A body that's taken me to two Olympic Games. A body that's brought me two European medals. So I hope youngsters can celebrate their body shapes and be confident in who they are.
“Since my post, I've had so many youngsters reach out and say they get bullied at school for being skinny - boys and girls. It's really heartbreaking to see.
“I hope in the near future we can start to celebrate all body types regardless of how they look. Equally I've had some adults message to say their 18 stone but run half marathons and they always get told they’re too big to be at runner!
“Yet the people giving their opinions are sitting on the sofa whilst these guys are out running 13.1 miles. There is no ideal shape for a runner. If you put your shoes on, get out the front door with one foot in front of the other - you're a runner. So I hope the focus switches to being healthy and happy!”
McColgan believes a female athletes’ bodies are subjected to a greater level of scrutiny than their male counterparts, but has spoken to men who have also been the victims of online body shaming.
The Dundee-born athlete explained: “It's definitely more common amongst female athletes but I know Tom Bosworth, a GB race walker, has faced body shaming comments too.
“It's not something that any of us discuss because it's just people's opinions. If we know we are healthy athletes then that's all that matters.
“I'd say females in general are most subjected to how they look and their body shapes. It's very rare to see comments about Mo Farah’s body shape or the way male sports stars look.
“But again, it's not something we particularly focus on. I strive to be acknowledged on my sporting performances and always will be.”
McColgan’s biggest worry is the impact social norms will have on younger athletes, and the myth that they have to achieve a certain look to be classed as fit and able to perform to the best of their ability.
McColgan added: “It's my natural shape. But I'm not 'too skinny'. It insinuates that I'm not healthy which is entirely untrue. It doesn't matter how it makes me feel - I'm strong minded and can take others opinions.
“I don't like is the fact that it plants a seed in younger athletes heads that I am starving my body and unnaturally skinny in order to perform which is the complete opposite.
“I want younger athletes to celebrate their body shapes - no matter what they look like. And to appreciate that if you treat your body with respect and fuel it correctly - it will preform to the best of its ability.”
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