Now that I think about it….
It may take a great leap of faith when all lights seem to have extinguished, but the stars are ever conspiring in your favor, way up there in the dark. . .
Sometimes you just need to find a little hope deep inside, and to trust the timing of the Universe.
Miracles happen all the time, just like an infinite, glittering snow storm once upon a March. . . Or perhaps a prosperous, full-of-good-fortune moon (which you will see when you look up tonight).
I remember surrendering to possibility, amidst a time of great uncertainty. And, just like that, my wildest dreams were surpassed.
I appreciated receiving this article, written by Karen Crouse, which speaks to a very real problem in sports. It is also – I should point out – scarcely relegated to figure skating (the topic of the article) and related performing or aesthetic sports such as dancing, bodybuilding, and the like. Rather, it has a much broader (and frankly insidious) grip on athletes around the globe.
Eating disorders were something I grew up knowing plenty about – I was classically trained in ballet for over ten years, competitively figure skated for about sixteen years, and danced competitively in International Latin and American Smooth ballroom for seven years. In those arenas, thin is ALWAYS in.
Can weight make a difference in performance? Yes, absolutely. When it comes to one’s joints, or one’s ability to do the particularly acrobatic and athletic jumps and spins, it’s important we are at a weight healthy for our frame. Figure skating, for one, is a high impact sport and that takes a toll even on a healthy body. When we are unhealthy, those negative side effects can be multiplied many fold. However, a lot of it – a sometimes far heftier percentage – is about the “look.” And, when it becomes about our appearance, things can go downhill very quickly…
It isn’t only that I, like many athletes, was “young and impressionable” at the time – top athletes generally ARE on the younger side (remember that part about impact on the body?) Athletes begin training early, so there is certainly danger in implanting these injurious notions early on.
What is also a real issue, however, is that a focus on a person’s “weight” can suddenly have bearing on whether or not you are even “considered” for a winning position – that will change your tune pretty quick if you have goals of any kind. (Deny politics play a role in results? You’re kidding yourself!)
In ballroom, for example, if you aren’t groomed properly, you simply aren’t taken seriously. Period. It’s as easy as that. I’m not putting it down, I was in it…and LOVED it. But it was a horrible hassle, and I knew I didn’t really have a choice. Before a competition I needed to be:
- Spray tanned…TWICE (because my pale skin wasn’t in)
- Have my nails done (as in, they needed to be long and noticeable)
- Have my hair professionally done every time I competed (multiple days, means days of hair-doing)
- Professional makeup (fortunately I did this myself, but then half my suitcase was makeup I had to lug)
- Make sure I was as fit as could be (wearing next to nothing / very revealing costumes…yes, people would notice if you gained a little extra. And they wouldn’t be shy about mentioning it)
Those things were prerequisites. Then you added to that judge preferences like wearing tan fishnets or stockings (okay, no big deal, that helped “pull me in” a little so I stayed slim in that tiny costume…) But it was rough because if you didn’t take those “suggestions” you often were out of the running…before you even took the floor. No, I’m not kidding. Figure skating was a little less harsh on that front, but the pressure to “lose a little” was definitely an undercurrent.
I remember going to skating camp at Simsbury’s International Skating Center of Connecticut. I was in my mid to later teens (definitely the mesomorph of the group!) and I recall – very clearly – the younger skaters being worried about gaining weight. They wouldn’t eat ice cream, they would ask for coffee (at that age?!) with skim milk… They wouldn’t have chips…. Even back at our dorms, some would skip breakfast because they didn’t want to have too much (more Lucky Charms and Golden Grahams for me?)
Let me be clear, I am ALL about healthy, clean eating – it’s not about how I look so much as how it makes my body feel. My body is a “finely-tuned machine,” according to my doc, and it tells me what it needs. But when you are FIGURE SKATING…for HOURS A DAY…you burn more than a Clydesdale! I mean, it was craziness!!! These kids were WAY too young to worry about weight, not a single one had any inkling of a problem (which could impact joints, as athletic as skating can be), and they couldn’t enjoy themselves as a result – it was heartbreaking!
Now a days, the pressures are – apparently – still there. It was eye-opening to read that Brian Boitano (an idol I watched win his gold when I was ten years-old) was very much subjected to this, and wasn’t actually at peak performance (very likely) at that time. Hard to believe if you saw those jumps! It’s also saddening to hear that Adam Rippon has struggled with this as well. I love that they are open about it because eating disorders carry a lot of shame with them – speaking up and making it known that we are not alone can be enough to save someone afflicted from a life of suffering.
My disorders – Anorexia and Exercise Bulimia / Anorexia Athetica – were a result of something very different, but they nearly devoured me whole too. I thankfully managed to cruise through my sports both unscathed and unapologetically…but I was acutely aware of the oft-unspoken-about illnesses in the background. Having suffered through it later, knowing full well how damaging and dangerous such sickness can be, was testament to how powerful these diseases are…
For many of athletes, body image is tightly wound around performance. . .which is tightly bound to our identities. Sometimes – to add fuel to the fire – that can be perpetuated by the people we look up to or rely on in the sport, as well as tied to our future success.
It’s a struggle to see the “good” sometimes – to see how strong we are, how well we are doing… It’s even harder to recognize…and then ADMIT…when we aren’t fueling ourselves the way we need to. I recently took back to the ice (on a VERY minor scale) but I’ll tell you…my legs are different. I can see it, I can feel it, and my body is asking for more carbohydrates and food. And…that’s what I give it if I need to. But like Adam Rippon, the mind will make a point to call out that we are doing something different – It’s like an internal guilt trip from the Ghost of Athletics Past!
Eating disorders are terrifying – like other addictive illnesses, they have the power to completely derail us, if not end our lives completely. While I refrain from “talking politics,” and don’t much care for celebrities shouting out their messages at the top of their lungs…there is some benefit in this particular arena. It is important to be honest and open because eating disorders are often highly isolating – we begin to decay on our own, and keep everyone at a distance while we whither away. The knowledge that we aren’t alone in our struggles it might help others find the strength and courage to seek treatment – one life saved is one life saved!
Truth be told, having had no one to look to during my own…? I would have LOVED to have this kind of hope to grab onto…
I received this note along with a purchase I made on eBay and it absolutely warmed my heart. I’d say “what are the odds?!” but then I really do believe the Universe finds away to align things for the good…
I wrote this lovely woman a note in return to let her know her words fell into loving hands, and to offer words of support…which she so readily deserves. She is hoping to help her son “chase his dreams” to which I said how blessed he is to have her, and that as a team they will succeed.
I then shared this Audrey Hepburn quotation:
The world is made a much smaller and warmer place when kind hearts lead the way.
I jumped on the Pinterest bandwagon many, MANY moons ago – truly back in its infancy. In 2010 I was still in the Fashion Industry when making trend and mood boards was a key component of my work. (Yes…I LOVED it!) 🙂 I was a lucky lady, and couldn’t have been more in my element.
I was a devourer of all things visual… It didn’t necessarily matter if a photo in question was of an actual SHOE or not (ladies footwear being the branch in which I worked for well over a decade.) I could use everything from images with obvious connections (footwear, handbags, accessories etc) to things that were more abstract (makeup artistry, rain-drenched sidewalk bricks, a caramel apple…) It really didn’t matter, so long as the color, or vibe, or depth captured what I was intending to weave into a story… A story that would serve as the basis for the colors, materials, and styles we’d select for that season, essentially…
So for me, Pinterest was a GOLD mine. I wish it had been around sooner, but I was thrilled to work with it back then…in spite of bugs and growing pains. It was massively addictive for me as a Fashion Director, but also just a highly visual person. It proved (and still does) equally as addictive for hoards of the – primarily female, as you might surmise – population.
I can’t say that I’m on the site quite as much these days, but I still pull images with reasonable frequency. Each time I do so, I find myself smiling because Pinterest is so much more than what a large majority of people see it as being – as in, a board for to-dos or must-haves. For me it is more of a drool-fest – at least as far as my overarching usage goes. I pin images that I want to wrap myself in somehow…if not entirely and ravenously imbibe. They’re delicious, in a word (and to reduce it to one is a painful exercise!)
But there are boards I have created that do include things I would buy, or might should some event arise… For example, my Pinups and Fabulousness board… There are a plethora of sassy images – the just-for-fun-and-isnspiration kind. But then there are the pencil dresses or obscenely luscious heels that I desperately want a reason to buy – so says the tiny sliver of typical-female that I possess (because it really is a lot tinier than the grossly-generalized stereotype.)
Anyway, the real fun in Pinterest is that it is – I believe – a full-on snapshot of a person’s personality – it’s a lot more colorful than a Facebook, and I daresay farther reaching into the depth of one’s character than an Instagram (remember, these are images we can easily pull from every nook and cranny of the global Interweb ether!) It also happens to allow for the multiple facets of our being – I’m several things in one Geminian bundle myself. . .
For example…it would take under a second to see that I am obsessed with 50s glam – but not the frillier, cheesecake pinup fashion, so much as the badassery of Bettie Page. I’m all about fitted, curve-hugging, sensual shapes and lines… I have a gothic sensibility overall, which is glaringly obvious, paired with a little bit of “show” (performer much of my life, after all!) I love long heels and edgy details (like Paciotti’s infamous dagger going down the back of these killer heels…)
So if you are ever wondering about a person…check to see if they have any Interest boards out there. You’ll be amazed what you can learn . . .
I’ll share more of my boards later (unless you feel like looking now…) because it’s far too much to consume at once. In fact, a single board might prove daunting to the mundane mind! For me, though, it’s like a pool I dive into as much as I can (knowing that I must proceed with caution, lest I be pulled into the seductive undertow of image pinning!)