I started in gymnastics when I was 4 and my coach called me Elastic Girl. I loved athletics and had long-held records for high jump and long jump in my primary & secondary schools. As a teen I could “sit & reach” 24cm beyond my toes. I played every school sport a girl could play – spending many days at inter-school competitions for volleyball, hockey (!), softball, tennis – you name it! I made it to district and state competitions in swimming and athletics. I was AIS coached for hurdles. I loved to dance. I had great explosive strength and speed and was also highly flexible.
I would race my brothers on the beach in summer or on bikes around the court where we lived. I loved swimming but would spend most of my water time trying to beat my “number of somersaults under water” record or perfecting back flips off the edge.
I don’t remember ever thinking about my body for anything other than its functionality. And for that, I loved it. I was strong and fit. Agile and athletic.
My thighs & glutes were large and muscly which made shopping for pants difficult, and my arms weren’t thin like my friends rather they were defined and my shoulders were too broad for some tops. But I was able to rationalise that in my mind. Those clothes were made for thin girls, not athletic girls. I’d find another style more suitable.
It wasn’t until I was in my late teens and early twenties that I started to consider a different perspective. When “athletic” became code for overweight. When not fitting into certain clothes became more about not fitting in. When the opinions of others filtered through to make me self-conscious. When I was told I couldn’t attend an event because I wasn’t attractive enough. When someone told me I looked chunky in my basketball uniform.
I suffered with an eating disorder for almost 8 years – the consequences of which lingered longer still.
I’ve been thinking about this as I sit by a pool on holidays feeling particularly fat. There’s no where to hide when it comes to swimwear and there’s no shortage of slim and taught bodies to show me what the other can look like. And there’s truth to it, I am overweight. There’s no denying that I’m carrying more weight than is healthy for my frame.
But then I remembered. I remembered the 30 minutes of rock scaling around the island’s point, the multiple 40 min bike rides in scorching heat and up killer inclines. I remembered that despite some aches and pains I’ve walked thousands of steps each day, I’ve perched on the back of a motorcycle; swum in a pool. I love what my body can do. I want to shed weight so my body can DO more without pain or restriction.
Young girls – love your body for what it can do! It can cartwheel and flip. It can run and leap and twirl. Love your strong legs and your powerful lungs. Love your energy. Love your freedom. Love your balancing and stretching. Love your brain and your smile. Love that your arms can give squeezy hugs and throw a ball and build things.
Women – love your body for what it can do. Love that it carries your heart and sustains your ability to love and give generously. Love that it feeds your mind and leads you to ingenuity and creativity. Love that it can grow an entire human person and push it out and sustain its life – your body is amazing! Love that it can walk and ride and jump and dance. Love that it can self-heal (it can self-heal people!!!). Love the fatigue it feels from busy days, the blissful feeling of rest or a nice hot cleansing shower.
Love your body for what it can do.
Encourage others to love their bodies for what they can do. Let’s raise a generation of young women who love what their bodies can do more than what they can look like.
What do you love that your body can do?!