With eleven million people currently battling eating disorders and the average onset as early as nine years old, the numbers are staggering. We often look to female athletes for possessing the most powerful — and many times, the most beautiful bodies — of all women. It would seem certain that these athletes would be immune to eating disorders or poor body image. The reality is that this is simply not so, as we found out in soccer star Brandi Chastain’s turn in our award-winning GoGirlGo! curriculum.
Read as Brandi Chastain, one of the most recognizable names in sports, shares her struggle and learn how sports helped her get healthy:
Here’s Lookin’ at You: Body Image with Brandi Chastain
“I’ve known that I was a good athlete ever since I was a little girl. I’ve always loved the way my body feels playing sports. Even when I was a kid, I was confident about that. But when I was 14, I started losing that confidence in myself as my body image changed.
My dad had a cute nickname for me—“Chubby Cheeks.” It never really bothered me. That was, until my freshman year in high school. I knew that Dad loved me. And Mom would try to get him to quit teasing me. I would just blow it off—but inside it began to hurt. On top of that, I had a high school soccer coach who emphasized weight. She would have us do team weigh-ins. And then, in front of everyone, she would criticize the girls who were heavier and make us run laps after practice. Can you imagine?
Okay, I was chunky. But sports had always been the place where I felt accepted. On this soccer team, we had to wear these small uniforms that weren’t exactly flattering to my teenage body. The coach would tell me that I was too fat for soccer. I started to become totally uncomfortable about my body. I thought that something was wrong with me. For the first time, I didn’t like myself. So, did I go on some crazy diet? Nope. I just ate more junk.
I began to think about being big all the time. I didn’t go out with friends as much. It was an awful feeling. It was so stressful to always be worrying about my weight. In my mind, it was such a huge problem.
At college, I had teammates who were super healthy. I learned about nutrition and started to understand how the body works. I started to feel good about myself and eating healthier. Sure, it was hard at first—I love fatty foods. But I got stronger as an athlete. And best of all, my self-image improved along with my health and fitness. I found the ideal me. I stopped listening to everyone else and learned to give myself a break. Now, my philosophy is “Be happy with who you are. Celebrate yourself!” and every once in a while, get down with a big ice cream cone!”
A large part of our award-winning GoGirlGo! curriculum are the life lessons from champion female athletes, like Brandi, that accompany each chapter of the program. These personal stories strengthen our message and help girls feel comfortable and not alone in their struggles. Whether it’s body image, bullying or trouble with parents, our athletes offer expert advice and a unique perspective on the issues that most affect today’s girls. Find out more about GoGirlGo! and order your FREE curriculum here.