I am 6 years old and in ballet class.
I sit down on a chair and notice my thighs look a little chubby as they squish out to the side because of the pressure of the chair.
That’s not good.
I am 6 years old and I’m hyper aware that leaner is better. Lean is the ideal.
It’s something that’s only reiterated to me even more when I start CrossFit at the age of 9, and especially as I reach the teenage division, start competing in the Open and Age Group Online Qualifier, and become more aware of who is who in the sport.
Brooke Wells trains at my gym and I take note that people love her butt.
That’s it. I am going to be just like her.
My butt doesn’t look like Brooke’s, and I don’t have abs like she does. And I’m a little annoyed that you can only vaguely see four of my abs.
Annie Thorisdottir is another idol of mine. I don’t have abs like her either.
Outside of my gym, social media tells me the leanest athletes, like Katrin Davidstottir, seem to get more attention than still lean, but maybe not quite as lean athletes like Laura Horvath.
I need to be leaner.
The Competition Years
I’m in the eighth grade and I start diligently meal prepping and tracking what I eat, consuming just 1,700 calories a day even though I’m doing two hours of cross-country and four hours of CrossFit training each day in hopes of qualifying to the CrossFit Games as a teenager.
All I want to do is be great at CrossFit, and to look like my competitor Mal O’Brien.
I start getting pretty skinny, and soon I eight only 110 pounds, yet still I can’t see my abs as much as I would like.
By the ninth grade, it’s all too much for me to bear on my own. I end up in therapy for an eating disorder.
A lot of days I still feel pretty bad about my body, or I don’t like the way I look in a certain area, usually my stomach.
It’s always my stomach. I just don’t genetically have CrossFit abs, and that’s hard sometimes for me still.
Some days I’ll go to the gym and see someone with a body I perceive as fitter than me and it will trigger me.
But on a lot of other days, I feel great.
A big part of getting here was realizing there’s more in my life than CrossFit.
I started writing for the Morning Chalk and running my school’s newspaper, and taking the time to go out with friends and spend time outside of the gym. I even rode a horse.
Today, I feel more balanced.
Today, I still go to the gym five days a week, but I’m doing a lot more Olympic weightlifting and bodybuilding. After doing hard met cons since I was 9 years old, I just need a break.
Today, I know that it’s OK to take time away from the gym sometimes.
Sometimes I wish I could go back to 14-year-old me and tell her about the importance of finding balance, about the importance of finding people to talk to, because that has made a big difference to me: talking about it and writing about it.
I have even had the chance to talk to prominent CrossFit Games athletes and tell their stories about struggling with body image and eating disorders, and it has been really healing. Sometimes other athletes will read my articles and reach out to me and say they’re going through it, too. It helps me feel less alone.
It’s healing for me. And healing for them.
Today I’m 18, and I’m in a better place than three years ago.
Today, I just want to be strong and fit for life. And happy. And I know now that this happiness doesn’t just come from my performance in the gym and how lean my body is. I have other goals that are even more important.
Today, I don’t compare myself to others as much. Sophie Shaft can look how she looks and I can look how I like. We’re doing different things in life.
I still struggle sometimes, but right now is the best I have ever felt about my body. Ever.