By Maria Caire
I’ve had trainers and coaches call me fat; and at the impressionable ages of 14 and 15, I believed what I was told. I remember going to a trainer (let me clarify that he was not a dietitian) and on the first day he weighed me in the middle of the training facility. Right then and there, he told me that I needed to lose 10-15 pounds. And rather than educating me on healthy eating, he just began listing off foods that I should not eat. I didn’t know why I was not supposed to eat fruit after 2 p.m., I just knew I was not supposed to in order to avoid being put into the stigmatized category of “fat.” As far as I knew, fruit was one of the best things for you. The conversation ended with “if you get hungry, just drink water.” I left feeling totally exposed and unmotivated. And I’m pretty sure only living off a diet of “water” is a one-way ticket to an eating disorder.
Mortified at the thought of gaining weight, I restricted my diet to under 1000 calories per day and became obsessed with reading labels. I read every label thrown at me: it became such a habit that I even caught myself searching for the nutrition facts on inedible objects. If it had a label, I would read it. And whatever did not fit within my less-than-1,000-calorie diet plan, would immediately be thrown away.
At that time, I was only five feet tall and I bullied myself into thinking I was too fat for my height. My thoughts were consumed with how I could be “smaller” and “more petite.” Having to go to the doctor terrified me because I did not want to step onto the scale. During my sophomore year of high school, I had lost 15 pounds within about a month and a half. My world grew dark as I borderline starved myself and refused to wear clothes that revealed more of my body, like tank tops or shorts. When I look back at pictures from that time, I realize that I don’t look healthy— or happy.
How did any of this make me a better athlete? If anything, all my dieting did was make me weaker and keep me from enjoying my sport. I spent more time thinking about my physical appearance than I did thinking about my athletic performance.