I used to be a fat kid.
Luckily my parents fed us healthy foods and took us to dance classes every week, so it didn’t get too out of control. But it was constantly on my brain, even at this age. I remember seeing this picture and thinking I looked fat. I was probably ten years old. That’s not a normal thing to worry about when you’re ten.
When I got really into running during my sophomore year I had already dropped a lot of weight (not in a healthy way, in an extreme dieting way). Running came pretty easy for me at times, but I also struggled with my weight and with stress fractures. My potential was severely stifled by my eating habits. I had three stress factures in the span of two years, and suffered from the familiar “female athlete triad”.
Of course, it gets much more complicated than that. I was able to get myself healthy for most of college, but I still had times where I just felt awful about myself. It’s tough to be a female distance runner in the NCAA, and I definitely caved to the pressure of “thinner is faster”.
Now that I am a coach I make it a point to set a good example for my athletes. One of my proudest moments was this year, after a cross country race in Richmond, when we stopped at Wendy’s at some of the girls were lamenting about their bodies and pretending they weren’t hungry. I ordered my food, sat down, and ate my chicken sandwich, fries, and a frosty. They kept commenting about how much I ate and how “skinny” I was (if they only knew how long it took me to get this point). They started to ask me questions about nutrition and eating disorders, and I got a little nervous because it’s such a touchy subject. But this is what you sign up for when you become a coach.. they will literally ask you for advice and information on everything. I did my best to answer their questions, but I know it was extremely important that I set a positive example with my actions. Yes, a lot of skinny people are fast runners, but that doesn’t mean that starving yourself= running faster.. that’s why I’m sitting here eating french fries! There are sooo many other factors. On that particular day (and most other days) I was extremely exhausted but felt very fulfilled because I knew I had helped. Just a little.