In the body I have now

The box sat on my kitchen table for the better part of two weeks. It was a pretty box and each time I went inside to select from the delectable contents I took care to close it back up, with the dark pink ribbon and all. The pretty box came from Lake Champlain Chocolates. I selected five pieces of handcrafted chocolate from one of their stores on a recent trip to Vermont. Frankly I was rather proud of myself for not pounding all five on the car ride home. Instead, I savored them. I didn’t just pop the chocolate into my mouth and mindlessly consume it. On five different occasions I had one piece for dessert, enjoying it at the kitchen table.

And so it with some irony that after enjoying my final dark chocolate salted caramel I read a story on ESPNHS about eating disorders and female athletes. Turns out this is a week devoted to eating disorder awareness which, I don’t think coincidentally, falls as we begin the annual celebration of Women’s History Month.

To be honest, these kind of stories always make me uncomfortable. Girls (and women) need access and encouragement to be physically active. Developing competition, and one’s relationship to competition, is a good thing in my book. Within my lifetime I’ve had to battle the “girls aren’t interested in sports” debate. I don’t want opportunities to be taken away from girls and women but I do want them to honor their health while participating and competing. I want them to gain strength from using their bodies in powerful ways, not in powerfully punishing their bodies through nutrition deprivation.

But there’s another reason why stories like this make me uncomfortable. Because it makes me confront my own views of body image and food. I’ve never had an eating disorder but I’ve had periods of disordered eating. In college I binged, choosing to avoid dealing with emotions and fears and life through various Hostess products and a nutrition plan of diet Coke and pizza hence gaining quite a bit of weight. In my early 20s, I subsisted largely on Yoo-hoo, bagels, cereal bars and oranges. Thankfully that didn’t last.

As I started my endurance sports life, I became more aware of the link among my weight, my food choices and my body’s performance. I knew I had to fuel my body for my workouts and for recovery. I knew that whole food, healthy food and organic food would help my body be at its best, which in turn fuels my mind and my soul so I can live my dreams and passions rather than just dawdle on the couch through another Law & Order marathon. I’ve worked to develop a good relationship with food.

For the record, I’m not always successful. Those beautiful, delicious chocolates from Vermont? There are brief moments when I felt bad about myself for eating one. Why? That’s a valid question. And one I’m not too sure I have an answer to it. But I know that every time stories about eating disorders and body image come up which make me uncomfortable, it’s a good thing. It makes me think about how I view myself, about what I’m telling myself over and over again. We’re often taught not to listen to the crap that other people say, but in truth the stories (some would say lies) well tell ourselves are the ones with the most power. So here it goes:

I am a beautiful, strong, fit, smart woman. Just as I am. In the body I have now.

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