Katie Gannon

"Who am I, if not the small girl?"
Photo Credit: Jay Knickerbocker Photography

I’m in seventh grade and I’m with my volleyball team.

We’re standing together watching another team play when girls start pulling up their shirts to compare and measure the size of their pooch area just under their belly buttons.

Other girls start sucking in their bellies as much as they can and grabbing the smallest part of their waist with their hands to see how wide they are. And then, more comparing.

I’m so fat, says one of my teammates.

At the time, I have grown taller but not wider and I’m pretty much skin and bones. I have the smallest pooch of all the girls on the team and I’m met with envy from my teammates—a badge of honor, and boy am I proud. 

I don’t know it at the moment, but the size of my pooch will become the ultimate measuring stick for me, even into adulthood, about how well I’m doing in life. 

High School

We’re in gym class. There’s a scale in the gym that measures body fat. My best friend goes first.

Twenty four percent.

It’s my turn. I step onto the scale, nervous about the number it’s about to spit out.

Eighteen percent.

Thank God. My number is smaller. Relief overtakes my body.

I look over at her. Her face. It’s so sad. I really feel for her. But still, I’m glad it’s not me.

Being the skinniest, a size 0, is my thing, and it should always be my thing.


I start CrossFit and results come fast and furious in the muscle department. My trunk gets thicker, my arms and shoulders bigger, and my traps more developed. 

I break down into tears as I buy medium clothes for the first time in my life.

I’m seriously tempted to go back to my old bodybuilding-style training at the traditional gym, because I wasn’t as thick when I trained that way. And I didn’t need as much food back then, because I could fight through a few sets of leg presses with low energy, but that doesn’t hold up in a metcon.

I just can’t get myself to embrace my CrossFit body, and I hate that I don’t feel as confident in a swimsuit anymore.

It scares me, so I message my CrossFit coach about my concerns.

But think about all the things you can do now: You can do pull-ups for the first time in your life. You can lift more than you have ever been able to lift in your life, she says.

Yeah, but the whole reason I workout is to look good, I reply. 

I ask myself a hard question: If fitness had nothing to do with looks, would I still do it? 

I don’t know the answer.

Me Today

I would love to sit here and say, I’m strong, and I have this CrossFit body that I love for what it can do, but I’m not there yet.

It’s still a constant battle. 

I have been doing CrossFit for three years and I’m surrounded by strong women with big muscles, thick muscles, functional muscles, and it’s still not truly what I want. CrossFit Games athletes look amazing, but I still don’t want that body. 

I recognize that if I keep doing CrossFit, I won’t have the body that I really want, a body that I once had.

On top of that, I’m an intermediate CrossFit athlete. I barely Rx workouts, and I’m learning gymnastics for the first time, so even when I do make it to CrossFit class, I feel like a rookie doing banded pull-ups next to women repping out bar muscle-ups. I’m used to looking and feeling like a badass veteran when I walk out of the gym, but most days after CrossFit I just feel like a fluffy newbie.

CrossFit challenges my ego everyday. Bodybuilding workouts beefed it up.

It’s a mind fuck.

But if I were to give up CrossFit, I would be admitting that I only do fitness for looks. And I’m not ready to do that, because I do love that I can do pull-ups, that I can run, that moving furniture and carrying groceries is easier than it used to be. I do love being challenged and feeling fit.

So I will keep going, keep fighting the battle between the heart and my head, and hope that one day my heart will catch up to my head. 

And I will do my best to be gentle to myself through the battle.