Derby body image struggles and happiness

Published April 22, 2014 by Vegan Derby Cat Party
Here is a great picture of me doing a Mohawk, demonstrating how even with my new muscles, my new strong thighs are not fat whatsoever! Stupid brain!

Here is a recent picture of me doing a Mohawk, demonstrating how contrary to what my brain was saying, my new strong thighs look pretty good! Stupid brain!

I originally started writing this post back in February, when I was freaking out because my weight had climbed. I was hoping to get useful feedback from other female athletes, but also reluctant to talk about a  topic that can be emotionally triggering for some readers. (But here it is!)

I’d never been really been athletic or active before derby. So of course I thought I might drop a couple of pounds and tone up with this new venture. Which is exactly what happened… at first. And that was all fine and good, until the scale started to creep up, right up to a number that I had only seen once or twice before, and didn’t care to see again. PANIC MODE!

In my family, the insecurity has always been our thighs. (Even though there is actually nothing wrong with them. We’re freaking Cuban, that’s all!) As a kid and teen, I was super self-conscious, especially about my thighs. (Which I didn’t realize until years later, were SO FINE!) Societal “norms” have changed a lot since my childhood, and gotten a lot more multi-culturally friendly, which has helped so much. But when the scale started showing me higher numbers, and all my pants started fitting tight in the thighs, all I could think about was how much food I was eating, and how I needed to make it stop. However, just when I decided I needed to “zip it” until further notice, someone from my team posted this article. (Just a few hours later, as a matter of fact!)

Basically the article says: if you don’t eat enough for your sport, you’re making it very likely that you’ll get injured, because the metabolism will take what it needs, even if it’s from your healthy new bones and muscles. WHAT?! That got my attention.

So then I went through this whole period of trying to reprogram my brain. Part of this was doing a serious assessment with a wall mirror placed at an angle on the floor so that I could see my whole body. I spent about 20 minutes one night in my underwear looking over my entire physique prodding, flexing, and jiggling while Thomas giggled nearby.

I learned several things. 1. My butt and thighs are much firmer now! 2. There are muscles and definition that never before existed! 3. My calves look awesome! 😀 At the same time I also coined the phrase, “the proof is in the laps!”, because I had also recently gotten a lot faster on the track. That’s when I started to make my peace with it.

Soon after, a couple of other relevent articles came out, including this one, written by a Rat City Rollergirls, Derby Liberation Front skater, who is one of our coaches, and also a physical therapist! It was nice to read about her very similar struggles as I was going through the same thing. When I talked to another girl that I skate with about it, she confessed she had ripped a pair of her work pants about the same time that I was outgrowing my scrub pants.

It seems to be a thing that happens to a lot of girls. Which is why I thought it was worth mentioning.

So what did I do? Well, I finally had to order some new underwear and scrub pants. I mostly just wear scrubs or derby clothes these days, but in the event that I do something social (like go watch another team’s game), I’ve been wearing skirts and dresses because trying to get my jeans on is NO FUN. But eventually I’ll have to try to find some jeans that fit too. (Which has already been challenging with the skinny jeans not being thigh/butt friendly, even before derby!)

The funny thing is I’m TOTALLY happy now with my new body. I love that I’m getting firmer, faster, and stronger! I think watching the Olympics also helped tremendously. Seeing all those strong, muscled legs really helped me to look at my body in a more athletic way, instead of just as an ornament. I remember in high school thinking to myself that I would never do a sport like soccer because I didn’t want to bulk up my legs! So ironic now. But really, I’m pretty proud of me for getting around my deeply embedded, self-loathing head trip!

Here’s another blog post that I thought was great, talking about how roller derby improves body image: here!

Most of all I’m really thankful for the opportunity to be involved in a sport that embraces all body types, and all kinds of people. It’s done a lot for me in ways that I really didn’t anticipate, and I know it does that for so many people out there too.



Ty / Vampira Knightley / Vamp

12 comments on “Derby body image struggles and happiness

  • I feel you! Lets get bigger, badder, stronger, fitter and hit harder, not shrink away into nothingness!! Lets take over the world with our chunky thighs and assess that strike fear into jammers :D:D
    And awesome mohawk! x

  • Great post! Happy to see a blogger discussing a sensitive topic in such an open space.

    Body image issues has long been a big thing for women, men and even trans* individuals. I’ve always been a very harsh critic of my own physique as well. I’m short and stocky, with a common skin condition that I’ve struggled with for a decade. I have often wished I could have the flat stomach, six-pack and perfect skin that films, television and advertisements perpetuate as being ideal for all the sexes.

    I once dated a roller derby peer who constantly criticized my weight with passive aggressive comments and put downs about my lack of muscles, stockiness, etc. She would roll her eyes at me and throw verbal low blows when I went to the gym with her. Throughout the rest of the week she would try to guilt me when I didn’t work out as much as she thought I should. When I look back on it I still sometimes get angry at myself for allowing it to affect me as much as I did, for trying to change my body for somebody else, rather than for myself, and for putting so much stock into somebody else’s skewed perspective and opinion of my body. I exhausted myself physically and mentally trying to become what she wanted, starving myself in the process, and got down on myself when I couldn’t meet her expectations on the amount of effort that should have been put in to those pursuits.

    After the relationship was over I went in for therapy and counseling as I found myself in a pretty heavy depression state, not eating, not drinking and with a REALLY bad opinion of myself. Just flat out didn’t like myself. Thank god I did! Through that therapy I have learned three crucial things: (1) by giving a name to, and recognizing, my self-created insecurities I realized that they only have power over me because I let them and that focusing so much on my insecurities, shortcomings and perceived failures, while completely ignoring the numerous strengths and accomplishments (be they big or small), is a self-defeating and unfair way to treat myself. (2) I am my own worst bully and critic and I need to stand up to that self-defeating voice in my head whenever it tries to convince me I’m gross and flabby, I’m not good enough, I’ll never reach that goal, or any other number of untruths. (3) My body isn’t perfect, but it is mine and though it will likely fluctuate throughout my life for any number of reasons I need to stop reaching for unattainable perfections and not allow the opinion of others to dictate how I should look or feel.

    Anyway, now I’m rambling and self-reflecting in public lol. Thanks again for the great read, keep it up!


    • Very honest and open of you! Very BRAVE! Well Done!

      What works for me with “weight” is not weighing but taking measurements. Bust, Ribs, waist, hips and . . . thighs. I have the same thigh issues! Must more comforting because as the take goes down or stays the same, you can build muscle and even though the scale says heavier, the toning is HEALTHIER than than not. Keep it up! It’s difficult and frustrating but feels so good!

      Stay brave!

      • Thanks! I did measure myself at that time (because I was ordering DerbySkinz – haha!) and did feel better once I saw that my waist measurement had remained the same. Sort of confirmed the muscle gain in my legs. Really though, I’ve become very comfortable in my skin through this experience.

  • Rather than replying to others’ comments, I’m just going to leave this here.

    Body image is a struggle for every woman who has the brain to be self-aware (read: EVERYONE). No matter how pretty or thin or muscular or tall or busty or whatever one is, it’s not enough. There is always something to make a person self-conscious.

    The difference between us is simply in WHAT makes us self-conscious. I’ve always loved my thighs. It’s a pain to buy jeans, but that’s part of having a body that falls outside whatever the fashion industry is trying to foist off on us as ‘average’ or ‘normal.’

    That being said, becoming stronger, more confident, and happier are the best ways to deal with insecurity. I had to stop looking at the numbers on the scale, because the numbers, it turned out, don’t mean anything. I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been in my life, and I’m the strongest, most athletic, and healthiest I’ve ever been. I had a trainer (a ‘professional’) put me on a starvation diet (1300 kcal / day) and tell me that my target weight should be just a little over the number on the scale from when I was my lightest, which was after recovering from MONO. I weight 35+ lbs more than he said I should, and I’m much stronger and healthier than when I met him.

    I’ve always been ‘big’ — big chest, wide hips, big butt, thick legs. I’ve struggled with eating disorders and body dismorphia of the worst kind. I’ve driven myself crazy counting calories and eating bizarre foods (or just eating normal food in bizarre configurations), and what I’ve had to reconcile is that the crazy voices may always be there in the back of my head, but I have a much stronger, confident voice shouting them down. The voice that revels in the strength that comes with having gained an aggregate 4″ on my thighs since I first put on skates. Nothing fits anymore, but I love the excuse to buy new underwear.

    • I think women of all shapes, colors, and sizes struggle with body image issues (and jeans)! I almost didn’t include a picture with the post, because it’s sort of irrelevant, but I think a blog post is always better with a picture, so I did.

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