I originally wrote this in response to a blog post by Hard Dash, but it ballooned into more of a blog post of its own, than a comment on someone else’s. SO, I’m re-posting it here.
Much of what I say here, as well as my personal reactions to fitness imagery in the media, spurred me towards my upcoming photo project, MOVED. There is something wonderful that happens when we start thinking of our bodies as the capable, powerful things they are, and I hope y’all can explore that with me. If you’re up for being photographed, please consider signing up.
I could write forever about my weird, strained, and oftentimes awful relationship with my body, but in short: I was a two-bottle baby, a chubby kid, an overweight teenager, and sedentary throughout. Always large, clumsy, and awkward. Constant input from the media, and from my Size-2 Chinese mother (I got my dad’s sturdy German body type) had me thoroughly convinced that I was a fat blob. As fat as I thought I was, though, I didn’t become actually-fat until I went to college. Once I got there, depression and the ramen-noodle lifestyle kicked in, and I packed on 50+ pounds.
After a few years of that, I started dropping that weight in 2003, when I took up martial arts and actually stuck with it, but even after getting down to my current size, it didn’t seem like enough. I knew I wasn’t fat anymore, but I still felt like a behemoth whenever I went to tournament, and stood in a sea of competitors who were shorter and thinner (and more graceful) than I could ever conceivably be.
Various parts of my body have fluctuated here and there since starting derby, but although martial arts made me lose the physical weight, derby is absolutely the thing that helped me start to shed the emotional weight of being heavy. Derby is a sport that has room for all body types, and my inherent hugeness finally seemed like an asset, rather than something to put up with, or be ashamed of. My legs have probably gotten even bigger over the past three years, but if I can keep skating faster, hitting harder, growing stronger, and becoming more awesome, who really cares if I never hit a single-digit dress size? I’ll take my strong and capable body over my mom’s frail Size 2 frame any day.
I now weigh about the same as I did when I left high school, but I look much different: fitter, leaner, happier. Scales are dumb. Fact is, I’m always going to be a large person, but I’ve stopped feeling so hopelessly sad about that. Every time I complete a set of push-ups, run through a pack, or absorb a hit like it’s nothing, a little more of that sadness goes away.
I really, really hope that derby continues to be a place where others can find self-acceptance, and start seeing their bodies as the wonderful, potential-filled machines they are. There’s room for all of us, both on the track, and in the world.