Body Image

My mother had a weird understanding of how muscle tissue works. My brother and I had always had low muscle tone, which is bad for children’s development, and our mother was sure that massage will fix that. However, only once I got tired of being the weakest kid in the entire elementary school and made my mother sign me up for pentathlon in fifth grade my muscle tone magically appeared without massage in these 3 first months of running and swimming (due to limitations of our age at that time we were not yet fencing, doing archery or riding horses).

Believe it or not, 10 years old I was already very concerned with my weight. My tummy has been my enemy ever since then. At 14, I witnessed my  roommate on a spring break school trip to Munich giving a hate speech to her thighs, and it was a turning point in my relationship with my legs. Guess what, I was doing gymnastics at this time, and running on my own was my way to deal with extra centimeters around my 14 years old waist, but now I hated my legs too.

Autumn of the same year brought pneumonia. I now was running much more and harder, before and after gymnastics practices, because not only my tummy, but also my legs were now parts of my nightmares. As well as food, that has not been welcome in my body for about 3 years now. Notice, my gymnastics coach never told me to lose weight. I was OK for rhythmic gymnastics, which is known for its anorexic-looking athletes. No surprise that I got sick. I lost more weight than ever before during the month when I stayed at home alone, eating little, working out and running outside in November in Russia, and being sick and weak with pneumonia.

I was 44 kg (98 lb) and 1.57 m (5’2″), and I stopped getting periods for 3 months (until I finally gained weight, because I was scared. ). I have not checked my weight since then, so when I go to the doctor’s office I ask the nurses to not say the numbers out loud. They start telling me how well I look, but it is not the point. I still cannot rationally evaluate my body shape and weight. I chose not to face the number, and it helps.

I am a coward.

In 2014, I went to a boarding school in another hemisphere. Here I joined Cross Country and Track Team. I like running. It is one of the few physical activities I am good at. I cannot play any team sports, such as soccer or volleyball. Probably, it is because I had little experience in it. At 15 years old I had a deep connection with running as it has been a large part of 1/3 of my life.

Today I am 16. I still run, I still do not weigh myself. I have swings of weight, which I judge by my clothes. I do not hate my body anymore, and I value it for enabling me to live, learn, exercise, eat, sleep… Running has been a large part of healing my bond with my body because I stop progressing as soon as I stop eating (*surprise*), and therefore I am forced to value food in my stomach.

Take care.

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