I first realized my body was not my own when I was about 15.
My swim coach started to weigh me alongside my teammates.
Each of us had to stand on the scale in front of each other.
Our coach recorded our weights in a little black notebook. We got on the scale prior to performing a rigorous set of calisthenics and then diving into the pool for our second grueling swim practice of the day.
I was traumatized.
It was the beginning of my sense of shame for being female. For being a developing adolescent. For being hungry; for wanting to eat a lot after swimming four hours a day.
The message was never spoken outright. And perhaps it wasn't the message I was supposed to receive. But the message my young mind heard was:
"You are faster when you are thinner.
You are admired and celebrated when you are faster.
Therefore, if you can remain thinner - even pre-pubescent - you will be more valuable."
I started to keep track of calories in my journal, recording even apples and carrots to the calorie.
I wrote full-page notes to myself that simply said: "Do not eat." And then I drew little hearts around that toxic message.
Instead of celebrating all the changes of puberty, I dreaded them.
I never developed a full-fledged eating disorder but I certainly developed disordered eating.
I developed a quiet, ever-present sense of dread about the normal growth of my human body and it has never left.
The weighing thing only lasted a summer. But the scars remain.
Why am I telling you this?
Because I am 100% confident I am not the only woman with a story like this.
And, because I am finally - in my mid-50's - using the full-force of my mind and heart to push back against the toxic message I was given as a vulnerable adolescent young woman, eager to please her swim coach.
My body is no one's but mine.
My body - no one's body - should ever be a source of shame.
I should not feel the need to starve it or assess it or harm it to try to fit into someone else's idea about how it should look or move or be.
My body is my own.
And today I am honoring it for all the things it has allowed me to do in life.
Run two (really slow) marathons!
Complete multiple triathlons.
Survive a ruptured appendix, faulty sinus surgery, a shredded ACL in my knee.
Give birth to three of the most exquisite human beings I know.
Live a happy, healthy, hearty life.
I still struggle. Those old wounds fester.
But in the spirit of self-compassion and less self-aggression, I am making friends with this ol' body of mine.
Because she is mine.
And she is good.