I took the short cut. The short cut that so many athletes take. The short cut that Allie Kieffer was referring to in her latest interview with Sports Illustrated. Not only did I see skinny as being fast from my own eyes and experiences, but this belief was conveyed loud and clear from the powerful voices of coaches, leaders, and those surrounding me within my sport. I was a competitive and driven athlete who wanted to be the best I could be in soccer.
At 5’1”, I was without question the shortest player on the college soccer field. I didn’t look like the typical tall and lean athletes like my teammates and opponents. I always wished I was more like them.
When I heard the term ‘strength training,’ I equated it to getting bigger, stockier, and slower. Running itself wasn’t taking me to the next level, or changing the shape of my body in a more positive way. So, I did what I had learned to be the only way to lose weight, get leaner, and become faster—I changed my eating habits. I went from making healthier choices to cutting out significant calories and it progressively turned into starvation.
I thought I had proved this notion right. After losing some weight, I was faster—but only for a very short time. My body wasn’t able to sustain success without fuel and nourishment. I battled injuries for the first time in my life, and almost broke.
I learned the hard way that skinny does not equate to speed and quickness. In the end, after developing anorexia and having minimal energy and strength, my performance significantly declined—completely contrary to my initial perspective. My body was built a certain way—compact—a way in which my stature had always played to my advantage. I was close to the ground which granted me quickness, agility and a distinct ability to change directions much faster than taller players.
Being short and muscular gave me a lower center of gravity. It was easier for me to stay on me toes, be in constant movement, and keep my balance. This was a big asset to my game.
And, finally, being short, strong, and bigger-boned gave me a reason to play with a constant chip on my shoulder—in a way that I had to work harder than everyone else. After being told time and time again that I was too short to play college soccer, I always felt like I had something to prove.
After losing weight, slimming down, and becoming “skinny,” I also lost every single attribute that had made me the player I had worked so hard to become. With very little energy and strength, I constantly got pushed off the ball and beat by my opponent. My speed was crippling without muscle mass and weakness.
And, finally, I was no longer playing with attitude or with that chip on my shoulder. My personality and attitude were completely affected and as I became more and more engrossed in my eating disorder I became more reclusive. My obsession with food and exercise consumed my mind and thoughts leaving very little time to care about or think about anything else. Therefore, the spunk, hunger, and intensity I once exhibited on the field turned into apathy and passiveness when I was “skinny.”
I learned the hard way that attaining thinness did not improve my speed or performance on the soccer field. It only destroyed me as both a person and player. I realized that I played my best soccer was when my body was healthy, strong, muscular, and athletic… and my worst was when I lost weight and became ‘skinny.’