The Backstory

Little gymnast me

Looking back on it now, I think a lot of my body images issues stem from my childhood. From ages 5-11 I was in rhythmic gymnastics, training up to 20 hours per week during the last couple years and around 30+ hours per week during the summers.

Needless to say, I was fit. I was this tiny little thing who would do the splits as warmup stretches and could do over 30 pushups in a minute. I ran at least 20 minutes a day and did well over 50 sit-ups. My body was probably in the best physical shape it will ever be in, which is a little sad to admit right now, but honest. I was happy with myself and can’t ever remember feeling any sort of self-doubt or even taking notice of my body shape/weight/etc.

And even then, I vividly remember my coaches having a meeting with my mother and me at the end of one practice. I remember them telling me, among other things, that if I really wanted that extra edge in competitions, I should lose 10 lbs. I would “look better”. That my 4’11” frame would look far better at 60 lbs than it did at 70. “Don’t diet or starve yourself!” Danuta said, “but have 1 cookie instead of 10”.

My gymnastics club. I'm in the middle of the front row.

My mom politely thanked them and we went home. In the car she told me that if she even thought I was intentionally doing anything to lose weight, she’d pull me out of gymnastics completely and that would be that.

I’m really grateful to my mom for that. She was certainly a grounding force throughout my life. I can only imagine what I would be like now if I had one of those crazy competitive moms who would encourage their child to do anything to win!

That said, I don’t know if I ever really got that out of my head. “If I could only lose 10 lbs, I’d look better”. I’d have the edge. Everything would be better if I only lost 10 lbs.

I stopped gymnastics about a year later. I realized the national competitions were about as far as I was going to get and I was starting to have a hard time fitting in schoolwork and practice. I left gymnastics and started taking dance and baton twirling classes, which were only a few hours each week. They kept me active while leaving lots of time for homework. And leaving enough energy in my body to actually grow and hit puberty.

Over the next few years, I grew about 7 inches taller and doubled my weight. By the time I was 15 I was 5’6″ and around 150 lbs. And all I could keep thinking about was “If I was ‘too heavy’ back then, what on earth am I now!?!”

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I’ve come leaps and bounds from then. I realize that my coaches request was sheer insanity and that there was no level of measure that would have classified me as “needing to lose weight” back then. I don’t even “need to lose weight” now. Weight, really, has nothing to do with it – and I think I’ve finally accepted that thought as truth.

What I do miss about gymnastics is how fit I was. How much energy I had – all the time. I want to get that back. Ok, maybe I won’t be able to fold like a pretzel again, but I will get my body out of couch potato mode and back into being fit, healthy, strong and (reasonably) flexible. Watch me. 😉

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