This past week was all about body image for me — from the Hartford Marathon poster I wrote about here to the Sunday article in the Hartford Courant by Lori Riley and everything in between.  In a lot of ways I like being the poster girl for bigger athletes who struggle with body image and eating disorders, I think it does a lot of good to let people know that eating disorders come in all genders, shapes and sizes and that there is more to weight loss than “calories in / calories out,” especially for athletes.  On the other hand I don’t want to be the big girl who can go fairly fast, I just want to go fast period. 

The most difficult thing for me is accepting what I feel I have lost and what my body is today.  I know that in a lot of ways I am fitter now than I may ever have been but because I am carrying around so much extra weight I cannot perform at the level I did a year or two ago (and I was not small then either). 

Last week was Kona week and my Face Book and Twitter feeds were plastered with pictures of extremely toned bodies getting ready to race in the Ironman World Championships.  I learned from the hundreds of pictures at Dig Me Beach and on Ali’i Drive that this is what triathletes and other endurance sports athletes “should” look like:

I was also forced to confront the reality that this is what I looked like in the picture that ran in the Hartford Courant story — its not hard to spot the differences:

Everyday I struggle to accept myself and to accept my body the way it is right now.  I also struggle because I play the game of  “what if.”  What if I was 20 lbs lighter for Ironman Florida, what if I was 40 lbs lighter, what if I could reach race weight.  I know myself, my training and my output numbers too well not to understand what less body fat would mean for me pace wise, but I also know, and am working to accept (as knowing and accepting are two different things), that I don’t have a lot of control over my body composition at the moment.  I can only control the controllables and right now my weight is not a controllable.  The best I can do is work to control how I feel about my body and accept my body the way it is extra fat and all.     

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Kelly Burns Gallagher

mccarter english employment litigator / oiselle team runner / coeur sports triathlete / sonic endurance coach & race director / writer / dartmouth '02 / emorylaw '05

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