Style & Beauty

How Playing Soccer Has Changed My Body Image

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I remember my friends starting to worry about their weight when we were thirteen.

I went to an all-girls school, and so all the glorious aspects of female puberty were openly discussed at lunch-breaks: height, weight, hairy bits, crushes, and that mysterious coming-of-age marked by “getting your P”.

We grew at different rates. I was one of the slowest, and was scrawny and stick-thin for most of my childhood and early teenage years. People would comment on my poking ribs and knobbly knees with a mixture of praise, envy and criticism, wondering out loud if I ate enough. As a child, I never worried about what I ate.

At thirteen, my friends began to discuss weight and BMI. Diets became a thing. Some classmates exercised excessively and shed pounds of baby fat. Others swore that if they hit a certain weight, they would stop eating. (Just like that, somehow, as though food was not a necessity.)

By the time I finished high school and transitioned to the very different environment of university (freedom! parties! balls! boys! freedom!), I was no longer stick-thin. I didn’t agonise about my weight, but it was always a nagging thought at the back of my mind, a voice that would grow louder after I downed a packet of chips or too many slices of bread. I examined other girls’ bodies, wondered how their frames were so small, their legs so disproportionately long. What had once been a mundane household appliance, the scale, now became an object of apprehension.

Growing up, I never completely committed to a sport. I was a jack of some trades, master of none. In high school, every lunch break, we scampered down to the sports centre to try our hand at basketball and tennis. I joined the running club, but was never fit enough to compete in cross-country. I dabbled in inter-school volleyball and badminton. I had most success in athletics, where I found some skill as a sprinter, but was never the best, and after sixteen, age and weight seemed to slow me down.

In early university, I retreated to the sport of the busy and solitary: jogging and walking. I sustained a one-year gym membership, initially thrilled to find new muscles popping out in my arms and legs, but eventually growing bored of the treadmilling and cross-training and the music videos on repeat. A couple of times a week, if I was lucky, I’d drag myself for a jog around the neighbourhood. But apart from improving my distance, there was no thrill in the exercise.

And then, two and a half years ago, one of my best friends started a futsal team, and asked me to play. From there, it snowballed. Suddenly, everyone was playing soccer, and I had a wonderful growing community of friends who would kick around for fun on weekends. I played mixed futsal and girls’ futsal, and I felt myself getting better every week. I learnt from better players; I tried outdoor soccer with great excitement.

I suddenly understood why people fall in love with a sport—and I felt like I’d missed out for the first twenty-something years of my life! There’s something very challenging and fulfilling about practising a skill enough that you acquire it, and seeing yourself improve. I felt myself growing stronger—not only physically, but mentally. My sense of body image had shifted and changed, without me realising it.

My body was no longer merely a passive vessel for my mind, nor was it a prop to be displayed and to impress others. My body’s primary purpose was to function, to do, to the best of its ability. Every time I run, I run to make my body fitter, stronger and more enduring. Having a serious injury (which turned me into a restless, sedentary ball of frustration for a few months) encouraged me to take care of my body, and to value function over aesthetics. After all, when I’m a decrepit little old lady, I won’t care about what my legs look like—I’ll only care if they can get me out of bed and to the loo.

My relationship with food has also improved. I find myself listening to my appetite much more. I learnt to eat when I am hungry, and to stop when I am not. I found that I no longer stressed about “good foods” versus “bad foods”. Most of the time, my appetite tells me the right things anyway—it sends me little prompts to hunt for fruit and veggies. But if I crave a Cherry Ripe bar or a big bowl of salt and vinegar chips, I won’t fight it. I will think, yes, I’ve exercised a lot today, and I feel hungry, so I will eat what my body is craving. I’ve realised that denying yourself doesn’t work—after forcing yourself to eat something “healthy” that you don’t really want, you often end up going back to the junk food anyway, and overeating.

Five months post-injury, and twelve years since I first realised weight was something people fretted about—I now feel like I’m at my healthiest. Cheesy, but true. As a soccer player, I feel tougher and more capable. I even noticed that I carry myself with more confidence, and worry less about what I look like. It’s liberating.

Whether it be team sports, yoga, pilates, running, cycling, dance or whatever, I think teaching yourself a physical skill can transform not only your body, but your perception of your body and your attitude towards good health.

Game on :)

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Giving Every Month.

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I live a self-centred life.

Although, yes, I do work in a profession where the focus is on the patient and family, and as doctors we profess to “help others,” I spent the majority of my time fixated upon the self. What would I have most fun doing this weekend? What are my ambitions? What do I want to buy?

Even this insignificant blog, this bypassed back-end of the World Wide Web, is a little shrine to self-progression. It is dedicated to furthering my knowledge and pleasure, and sharing my nerdacious exploits with my readers. Most of my sentences start with I.

I grew up in a Christian family, and attended an evangelical church ever since I can remember. I was an eager participant in Sunday School, which they rebranded to the much cooler “Kid’s Church” (they never placed the apostrophe correctly, and that irked weeny primary school me). Throughout my teenage years, I joined the weekly youth group, lurking on the outer fringes of the cliques until I managed to bring my school friends to church and felt like I finally belonged. I relished the wonderful, deep discussions we had in our small group sessions.

Giving was a huge part of being a church member. It became a matter of habit to drop a few coins out of my allowance into the offering bag every week. When I started earning a small amount of money from cashier work and tuition, I learnt to give more consciously, reflecting on wherefore and where-to I gave my tithe. Towards the end of high school and throughout university, my friends and I banded together to sponsor a child through World Vision on our unimpressive wages.

But I haven’t gone to church regularly for some years now. And with the disappearance of one habit, another has faded: the act of giving.

So for the last couple of months, I have committed to a change of lifestyle. I will donate a portion of my earnings, every month, to a charity or several charities that I believe in, both local and international. This will be a rule rather than an option. The fun part is, of course, picking what or who I want to support.

I hope you don’t get me wrong. I’m not sharing this on my blog to toot my own horn. There are many others who are much more generous, sacrificial and committed than I am. I have friends who run charitable organisations alongside full-time work, or travel overseas on missions. I have done none of those things.

But I know that, with our busy schedules and the stresses of work, it’s easy to feel like you can’t make a difference–that your small gift won’t really change anything. So I hope that by sharing my personal pledge of charity, this post can be a reminder to myself and to you that, whatever our day profession may be, we can make a difference through simple, regular generosity. Our societies need doctors, dentists, mechanics, engineers, consultants, administration workers, policy makers, hospitality staff, mathematicians, researchers, writers, designers and artists just as much as they need people who run charitable organisations. Charities need funding just as much as they need workers. We can be good at the jobs that we do, and develop our skills to earn an income, and give a portion of that income to make society as a whole—the world as a whole—better for every member.

So this month I’m giving to:

I’m also making a conscientious decision to shop less wastefully. This article outlines three really simple questions to ask yourself before you make a purchase, and I think the first one especially is so useful.

1. Will I wear this a minimum of 30 times?

2. Do I really need this item, or am I just attracted to it because it’s similar to something I already own?

3. Is this a timeless item or an unsustainable trend item?

These rules allow you to channel your money into quality items that you need and will use regularly. If I had used these questions earlier, I would have avoided blowing my money on quite a few items that are currently hogging space in my wardrobe. I have a drapey dress in there with a giant alien landscape on it because I thought it looked edge-y and sci-fi. I’ve never worn it :(

So maybe instead of passing along the #ALSicebucketchallenge, consider passing along the idea of Giving Every Month. It’s less catchy, but, I think, more meaningful.

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This picture irritates me.

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Not a very good quality photograph, I know–sorry! This is the cover of The Age’s Good Weekend last weekend (March 31, 2012). Normally I love flipping lazily through the Good Weekend on Saturdays and this travel edition was no exception. I was most excited to discover Crumpled City Maps–how did this go un-invented for so long?! Then I spent a good hour poring over the list of 100 Extraordinary Travel Experiences compiled by proficient globetrotters, which included the Papase’ea Sliding Rocks in Samoa :-D Plus a whole bunch of things I can’t yet afford.

But was I the only one who felt irked by the cover photo? Blonde lady in white capris and tanned, long-haired lover are led down a tide-washed beach by a compliant escort of local Fijians who lug their Louis Vuitton bags whilst bearing winning smiles…

Not really my idea of a holiday.

Last Saturday was also my mum’s birthday, which warranted a brunch and some pampering!

Happy birthday Mum!

We brunched at Cafe Moretti in Glen Waverley, which is one of my favourite places for a coffee and catch-up. It’s affordable, has a bountiful menu, and the ambience is modern and unpretentious. The only downside I’ve found is that a few of the wait staff are a bit abrupt. We ordered the Eggs Atlantic and the Fluffy Pancakes with Berry and Vanilla Ice Cream, and two lattes–one regular, one green tea. The green tea was interesting but I’ve had it twice and I think that’ll do me for a long time. It’s very sweet :-P

Then we both got manicures and pedicures for the very first time, which means I can cross off items #39 and #56 on my list!

39. Get a manicure and pedicure for the first time. (31/2/2012)

56. Take my mum out somewhere to get pampered. (31/3/2012)

Feels a little cheap to be ticking off two in one go, so I’ll take my mum out for some more pampering next year. Totally not an excuse to get myself a massage too…!

My hand looks a little…weird. I picked a dusky rose pink sort of colour. It was Betty Draper inspired :-)

Grace Le Fay’s What’s Hot and What’s Not

I hardly ever blog about fashion, but I thought I’d give it a go! Here are five slightly dorky trends that I love…and five no-no’s that send a shudder down my spine :-P

Love:

1. Navy anything

I’m a little biased since navy blue is my absolute favourite colour, and I will throw myself bodily at any passing navy blue duffel coat. I like navy because it’s simple, classy, and understated, but a shade more interesting than Melbourne black.

2. Cuffed trousers

No! Please! Don’t show your ankles…I won’t be able to resist you!

3. Nude lipstick

This looks good on other people ;-P I’ll attempt it one day!

4. Loafers & boat shoes

Yeah, they’re a little bit ugly. But there’s something about their straightforward functionality that makes them attractive. Hi, I’m a loafer. I don’t need heels, or bows, or even a pointy toe to make you like me. I’m cushy and flat and don’t you just want to pop on a pair of cuffed trousers and stick your foot into me and then have cucumber sandwiches on a yacht?

5. Red hair

Hugely underrated. If I could be reborn, I’d be a redhead. So many blonde celebrities go from pretty to amazing when they go red!

Shudder:

1. Hot pink anything

I’m not saying I’ve never worn hot pink before…just saying it’s not the best colour to pick if you’re aiming for classy :-P

2. Guys in short sleeved shirts

These should be illegal, even for supermarket workers.

3. Anime eyes contact lenses

Your eyes are so ridiculously pretty, they’re freaking me out.

4. Belt chains

Do you suffer from an internal existential crisis, the only cure for which is to physically attach yourself to your own body, by a chain? No? Then please refrain.

5. Excessive layering

It’s a temperate day outside…so I think I’ll wear a long top over a skirt, over a pair of patterned leggings, with my favourite pair of furry boots. And a cardigan. Plus this flowery scarf. And I’ll roll my sleeves up and wear some arm warmers!

Don’t do this to me! My mind cannot process you as a single entity when you are wearing so many articles of clothing!

Thanks for stopping by! Will try to update this blog more often this year, with updates on my December/January travels to Malaysia, Hong Kong and Samoa. Do visit again, my pretties :)

TTFN!

x

Grace