Your Body

The Side of Sports No One Talks About

By January 3, 2016 0

“You should lay off the Twinkies and Ben & Jerry’s.”

Those are the words I heard from one of my first gymnastics coaches. She was 20 years old (mentally, a child herself perhaps) and I was just 13. This means I was in middle school when she said these words to me.


At a whopping 4’10.5”, 91 lbs, a size double zero and a tad bit flat-chested, my body was equipped to handle countless hours of training and competing. On the other hand, I was born with hips – “birthing hips” as my mother would call them. This meant that despite my small pant size, I also had curves which the guys loved, but my coach greatly disapproved of.

While I was perfecting handstands, I would hear her joke about how “gravity” was pulling me down, thus making it difficult to keep my body straight and in perfect form. Unfortunately, this was true for more than just handstands; I was unable to master a slew of other gymnastic skills as well.

Her words were harsh to hear and incredibly inaccurate as well; It actually wasn’t until these past three years that I began to like ice cream. I was born lactose intolerant, so “Ben & Jerry’s” wasn’t exactly an option for me growing up. And as for the Twinkies she mentioned?— I’ve always found them to be completely disgusting.

The curves of my body were the ones I was born with, not ones I had built with excessive amounts of food (except maybe cake which I have always been obsessed with, but how could she have known that?). And while I spent countless hours training and working my butt off, (obviously not literally) my curves were still viewed as an unfavorable quality. To this coach, I was just another gymnast whose body needed more sculpting: whose body fat needed to be reduced.

And so at the ripe age of thirteen, I started dieting. Not because of some fad, not because I wanted to have a flat stomach for bikini season—but because that’s what my coach told me to do.

And that’s the ridiculous side of sports that no one is talking about. 

Since then I’ve learned to embrace my curves, which have grown wider instead of reducing in size (sorry coach).

Sure there are times when I wish I was a size double zero again so that I could emulate the images of women on tv. But there are more times that I am thankful for being me; the differentiated version of what our society deems as perfect.

Bullying in sports is indeed real.

Developing an eating disorder in sports as a consequence, is also real – and if you are catching on—it’s not always the athlete’s fault. Athletes are almost always the victims, whether at the hands of a mentor or because of flawed societal expectations.

To my former coach: thanks for the lessons, both in and out of the gymnastics gym.

I think I’ll go enjoy a carton of Ben & Jerry’s on your behalf.