I remember walking home from gymnastics practice every day. Monday through Friday. Seventh grade through 9th grade. Junior High. It was four blocks. I remember stopping at Corner Drug at least three times a week and buying an ice cold Tab out of the pop machine. I loved that pop. Who cares if the artificial sweetener caused cancer. It had frozen ice chips at the top and was in a glass bottle. I had to stay there and drink it, because I didn’t have the money for the deposit to take the bottle. It was so refreshing. I remember walking by the big picture window of the store every day and looking at the fat on my thighs. The reflection. You know, the inner thigh when you take a big step. The fat right there. I hated my fucking fat thighs. I hated my body. How could I look like that and be a gymnast? Weren’t gymnasts supposed to be in spectacular shape?
I remember a light blue leotard I had. I thought I looked really good in it. Turns out, not so much. Someone commented on how I looked. It wasn’t a good comment.
My issues with my body began then. My issues with food began then. I have written about this before. I had a gymnastics coach named Mr. Ball. I loved him as a coach. The first time he saw me he loved me. I was 12. The summer of 6th grade, going into 7th. I could knock out 15 pull-ups, easily. I was so strong. He loved that about me and of course, could see some potential in me. I lived and breathed gymnastics. I loved it. I loved going to practice everyday. I loved the hard work. I loved everything about it. I loved it until I was told I needed to lose ten pounds. I remember it. It was the summer of 9th grade. I weighed 116 pounds.
I remember questioning everything about everything. I remember feeling defeated and wondering how the hell I was going to lose ten pounds and why I even had to lose ten pounds. Maybe he saw the fat on my thighs. I struggled with this so bad. Because vulnerable age. Because vulnerable mindset. Because vulnerable.
Why can’t people think about things before they speak. I really don’t blame him. I guess it was a sign of the times back then. Nothing like now. Probably not meant in a harmful way at all. All in my best interests.
The weight loss journey began. Lots of different diets. Nothing worked. Surprise, surprise. I think I even rebelled and started eating candy bars and diet pop before practice. Because nobody was going to tell me what to do. Attitude perhaps. Of course.
I don’t even remember if I told my parents about it. I doubt it. I ordered a diet out of the back of Teen Magazine. It was a trifold piece of thick paper. It was pink. It was a high protein diet. I remember it had steak and boiled eggs. It worked, because I was slightly consistent. I may have lost a few pounds. Things do work when a person is consistent.
I have also written about my disordered eating and eating disorder as a result of this. I felt so out of control and the only way I could control this aspect of my life was with food. Bulimia hit me hard. This was awesome. Eat all the food. Puke all the food. Sure fire weight loss, right? Maybe. Sure fire health problems. It was a long and gory road. I had a lot of self hate. I remember seeing pictures of a gymnastics party at another coach’s house. Holy shit. Black circles under the eyes, cheeks drawn, but still fat.
It takes a lot of work to climb out of a pit like that. The self confidence is non-existent. Everything about yourself seems fake. Why did he have to say that?
I worked on myself for many, many years after that. The bulimia lasted through my junior year, I think. I didn’t go out my senior year. My beloved gymnastics career came to an end. I didn’t have the desire or passion for it any more. I was done.
I finally am starting to feel comfortable in my own skin. I don’t look in the picture windows anymore when I walk down the street. I don’t really pay attention much anymore.