I vividly remember the day I chose to love me. I didn’t recognize myself at first. I was pursuing my dream of representing my country and USA Luge at the Olympics. My training was focused around strength and fast twitch muscles. This meant I was on a strict training schedule of lifting, sprinting, and agility training. This morning was the typical lift session that included a warm-up, cleans, bench press and pull-ups.

I was helping my teammate on her bench press set when I looked up at myself in the mirrors that lined our weight room.  For the first time, I didn’t recognize the girl who was staring back. The muscles in her arms, the definition in the legs, the focus in her face, and the intent in her eyes were all things I didn’t think I could possess. But there I was, with all those things.

Thinking back now, it was a very scary moment but I will never forget the little voice in my head that said “Oh hell yes! I am strong. I am beautiful. I’m all about this!” I told my aunt about that realization and after leaving her house that day I vowed to myself that I would love me.

Before that moment, I would obsess over my diet and restrict myself even though I was competing in a sport where the more you weigh, the faster you go. I was a strength athlete and even though my coach told me not to, I would run long distances because I knew it would make me skinny.

I also hated my quads so much that I became obsessed with the idea of body contouring and did extensive research on muscle shaving surgery because that’s what I thought my only answer was.  I was my own worst enemy.

Because I was an athlete, I identified my body as having a purpose; yet I still had to marry the idea of being a young woman (and the pressures that come with that) with the reality of being an Olympian.   More so, at the conclusion of my sporting career, I had to redefine my body's purpose, despite the enormous difficulty of such a significant lifestyle change from on-the-go athlete to a nine-to-fiver at a desk job.

Retired for five years, my body is completely different than it once was.  Yet I love it in different ways than I did when I was that teenager struggling with body image issues that were unjustified and unreal.

Now, I am grateful to be healthy and strong. There will always be moments of weakness in which negative thoughts will alter the way I see myself in the mirror but what I have learned is simple. I have the power to change those thoughts. My hope is that together we realize our power to change thoughts, change behavior, and encourage positivity.

 

Image courtesy of Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

 

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