Running like my life depended on it, I circled around my middle school building with fifty other girls determined to make our school’s track and field team. Personally, I was not hell bent on being a track star. However, all my friends were going out for the team and I certainly was not going to be the lone star taking the regular bus home directly after school. I never had played a sport beyond gym class and church picnics. Thus, consistently running laps for over an hour almost made me pass out. Not only was I overweight, but also the majority of my excess fat sat on my abdomen, an integral muscle for speed and agility. After years of Happy Meals, minimal exercise, and a pregnant-looking belly, I finally decided to get fit at age twelve.
While the decision primarily stemmed from the desire to be near my friends, I grew up listening to snide jokes about my chubby stomach, from both adults and children. I had been called everything from the Pillsbury Doughgirl, with people poking my belly for an extra laugh, to adults insisting that I must be pregnant even though I had not even experienced my first kiss. Thankfully, my family never tolerated or participated in the sarcasm. In fact, I credit my family with my body image confidence throughout the majority of my life. I remember being a young girl and wearing a size 6X, yet having no clue that X sizes were made for chubbier girls. I just assumed it was a regular size between 6 and 7. No one pressed my weight issue or forced me to exercise.
Despite my diet being horrible and refusing to adjust my fast food habit, I’m sure most of my relatives classified my chubby stomach as baby fat. As the years passed and the weight stayed, I realized that the fat might not disappear unless I took the initiative. Over the course of two years, I ran with my team, slowly watching my figure change and my weight decrease significantly. After countless track workouts, I emerged over 15 pounds lighter with a flat stomach and visible abdomen muscles. Everyone was shocked, including my family and former critics. Running track changed my life not only health wise, but also proved that fitness is possible with sweat, tears, and dedication.
Whenever I feel sluggish or out of shape, I take out my running shoes and practice the same exercise routines given to my team years ago. Track didn’t just teach me to run, but I also learned how to lift weights and sculpt other parts of my body. I discovered the difference between good and bad carbohydrates along with the best fruits to eat after a workout. And today, I could not be more thankful for the teaching and mentorship of my teammates and coaches. Without their motivation, I wouldn’t have made it through those years or maintained the shape that I’m in now.
I’ve talked to several people about my childhood weight loss journey, and most importantly, I’ve found that my story resonates with other young girls. I still maintain my post-track body and recommend that young girls experiencing weight issues pursue running based sports. I wish that I had signed up for track earlier or simply had a family that encouraged me to exercise. It definitely makes a difference and paves the way for a healthier adulthood.