by Maria Siciliano //
It’s time we get #real about the topic of body insecurities: a topic that is so prevalent among the world of female athletes, but rarely touched upon. There is a constant binary created within the athletic world for females. We’re constantly training to build up our muscles to become powerful and strong, while the world tells us to make sure we’re remaining skinny enough to fill the feminine role that society expects of women. It’s time we’re not silent on these issues, and use our voices to get #real.
I felt pressured to be able to fit a certain size, eat a certain amount, or look a certain way despite all the hard work I was doing in training.
As a collegiate pole vaulter, and former gymnast, I have spent my whole life trying to fit into society’s standards, always wanting to hide my muscles and strong build, rather than embracing what it is that allows me to fly through the air. I felt pressured to be able to fit a certain size, eat a certain amount, or look a certain way despite all the hard work I was doing in training. Society’s expectations and lack of encouragement for young girls to push themselves in sports leads to many girls dropping out of sport earlier on in their careers. A study done as recently as June of 2020 released a report that, “among girls who have participated in sport, one in three leave sport by their late teens. By comparison the dropout rate for teen boys aged 16-18 is only one in 10” (Canadian Women and Sport). There is also a prevalence of eating disorders and mental health issues as a result of these pressures that surround female body insecurities in athletics. In a report published in 2004, there were findings of “42% of elite female athletes in aesthetic sports and 24% of female endurance athletes show symptoms of having an eating disorder” (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14712163/).
Former USC volleyball player, Victoria Garrick, is a social media influencer that is advocating for this change among female athletes. I stumbled upon her podcast, REALPOD, which champions being real about mental health and body image in athletics. The podcast interviews many inspirational guests, forming real conversations about success and failure, as well as many of the challenges of life. Garrick highlights her change in attitude towards her body throughout her social media platforms, saying that she used to downplay her strength, as she wanted to look like the girls who didn’t play sports. Now she pushes girls and followers to challenge their limits when it comes to training, hoping that female athletes choose to honor all the hard work they’ve done by loving the body they’re in.
Let’s get #real about females in athletics.
What if we as female athletes, and we as women, didn’t work out to lose weight, but instead to become strong? What if we ate to fuel our bodies, rather than to detox/lose weight/become lean like society says we should? Or what if we didn’t train because we had to, but rather train because we want to, approaching exercise and sport with a sense of gratitude for our abilities and our bodies? Let’s get #real about females in athletics. Let’s be strong. Let’s be loud about these topics and speak up to our teammates whenever the chance arises. Let’s lead by example and embrace insecurities and imperfections. I’m here to say: feel free to lift more than the guys in the weight room. Feel encouraged to eat until you’re full after practice. Feel inspired to put on your uniform (whenever you finally get the chance), and look in the mirror, and love the freaking strong woman you are <3.