Weight and body image issues were never on my radar when I was growing up. My metabolism was like a fireplace; I was able to burn up what I ate almost immediately.
I took advantage of this by drinking three Starbucks double chocolate-y chip Frappuccino’s per week and indulging in fast food daily. While I weighed a steady 120, at one point during my senior year of high school I hit 117. As a 5’7 high school swimmer, I was borderline underweight for my height.
I never really saw a problem with this until my high school swim coach brought me in for a meeting at lunch and asked me if I was eating enough.
It never occurred to me that I might not be fueling my body appropriately. It was then that I realized I had a love-hate relationship with mealtime. Breakfast was my least favorite meal of the day, so I normally ate three Eggo chocolate chip waffles EVERY MORNING.
I had developed a severe food aversion to sandwiches after eating them EVERY DAY of my adolescent life, so lunchtime I mainly relied on snacks to fuel me for swim practice. When it came time for dinner, if my mother didn’t cook or if I didn’t like what she cooked, I wouldn’t eat at all.
“It never occurred to me that I might not be fueling my body appropriately.”
Looking back at 17-year-old Megan I now realize she had an unhealthy relationship with food, but this was a relationship I didn’t fully understand until I started college. From there on out, I learned the hard way how to have a healthy relationship with food and accept my ever-changing body.
High school taught me that I could eat anything I wanted and not gain weight. I swam 16 hours a week, lifted weights three times a week, and burned hundreds of calories a day. I wasn’t like other 16-year-old girls that agonized overlooking fat; rather I was wondering if I was going to be able to fit my broad shoulders into certain tops and dresses.
By the time most girls reach 17, at least 78% of females are unhappy with their bodies. During this time, I was young, fit, muscular, and didn’t understand why other females had body image issues.
Unfortunately, shortly after starting college I learned I was no longer indestructible to the consequences of fast food.
At the beginning of my freshman year of college, I weighed 118 pounds. Thinking I was invincible, I ate three pints of ice cream a week, continued with my weekly Starbucks trips, and realized my deep love for Chick-Fil-A.
One study found that the main concern college students about their relationship with food is their ability to be addicted to food. It’s safe to say that I reached that point during this stage of my life.
Quickly 118 pounds turned into 125, 125 turned into 134, and by the end of the summer of my freshman year, I weighed 152 pounds. Although part of this weight gain included gaining muscle for swim, I was completely mortified by what my body had transformed into in over a year.
I was no longer the 118-pound, high school twig. I had become 152 pounds of college woman, college athlete, and food abuser.
Gaining nearly 34 pounds is what it took for me to realize I had an unhealthy relationship with food; And so began my quest to get back down to what I considered to be a “socially acceptable weight” as soon as possible.
Even though it’s reported that only 5% of college women have a BMI classified as overweight, 87% of college women report wanting to lose weight. I became yet another college female that was not only afraid of the number on the scale but also afraid of what I looked like compared to my teammates on the swim team.
A study found that in competitive swimming, 51.7% of female collegiate swimmers felt weight pressures within the swimming community. In fact, female athletes actually develop eating disorders at a higher rate than non-athletes. There is a stigma that female athletes all have to have incredibly toned, muscular, and skinny bodies.
Spending 20 hours a week comparing myself to my teammates did not help my relationship with my body or my body image issues.
This comparison made me think that everything about my body that was inferior to theirs. I believed them to be skinnier than I was, have nicer bodies, and have the six-pack abs I could never achieve.
It reached the point where I hated going to practice because walking around in a bathing suit only lowered my self-esteem.
“From there on out, I learned the hard way how to have a healthy relationship with food and accept my ever-changing body.”
Whenever we would tan outside in bikinis I would only lay down. I could never sit because then my stomach rolls would be out on display for all to see. I loved my teammates, but they made me resent my body.
My body image is something that I’ve been silently struggling with for the past three years of my life. By educating myself on proper nutritional needs for a college athlete, I figured out how to regulate my weight, but I was never able to achieve my “desirable weight.”
I eventually confided in my roommate about how uncomfortable I was with my body after transitioning into college. What she told me is something that has stayed with me every time I think about how uncomfortable I am with my body.
She explained I am no longer a 16-year-old girl; I am a woman now, and I have a woman’s body. I should not be 120 pounds. I needed to learn to embrace my curves, stomach rolls, and the extra muscle all over my body.
This is not an issue that has just gone away overnight. I still struggle to see myself as beautiful and not compare myself to what I looked like in high school. I had never been the girl with “body image issues”, but now this is a title I embody every day.
I am a woman. I have a woman’s body. My body isn’t where I want it to be, but I try every day to love myself for who I am and what my body has become.
Written By: Megan Delgado
Megan is a senior at Queens University in Charlotte, where she’s a member of the 5-time NCAA Division 2 Champion Women’s Swim Team.
Originally from Southern California, she’s the biggest Disney nerd ever and dreams of raising a corgi.
Megan is majoring in psychology, minoring in human services, and has wanted to be a writer her entire life!