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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The Maze Runner (2014) – Grace.C

Spoiler-free review of The Maze Runner.

FILMING YOU IN

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The Maze Runner has a great premise. A boy wakes up inside a rickety elevator with no memory of who he is or how he got there. The elevator dumps him in a glade in the middle of an enormous maze, where he finds himself amongst a group of other boys who have come to the glade in the same way, with no memory of their past lives except for their names.

Released on 19th September 2014, the film is an adaptation of the 2007 young adult dystopian novel by James Dashner, and stars an ensemble cast of wide-eyed, artistically-grubby, good-looking young stars. Dylan O’Brien portrays the main character, Thomas, who never really settles into the civilisation of the Gladers, but is mesmerised by the mysterious, looming presence of the maze. We are tantalised by the information that the maze is guarded by the deadly creatures known as ‘grievers’…

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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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On to Month Two of Hermit Life!

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I have officially been a bum for a month.

In the past week, I have:

  • slept a lot
  • brunched at Dukes Windsor, apparently one of the best coffee places in Melbourne (the cappuccino was yum; steak sandwich also yum)
  • guiltily played soccer. I played an outdoor game on Sunday—the second-last game for the season; I couldn’t resist!—and collected three bruises and a good bit of swelling around the injured ankle
  • felt majorly down and crippled due to injury and pain, and secretly loathed my GP for telling me to rest
  • binge-watched Korra season 3 (review forthcoming!)

How goes the writing, you ask? It’s up and down. By the end of three weeks I’d reached 20,000 words and I was past the tenth chapter. Then, last week, the most horrible of horribles happened: I hit a lull. I’d sit down at my desk and be overwhelmed with restlessness and frustration. Everything I wrote seemed forced. Doubts surfaced about the validity of my story–it’s ridiculously light-hearted, it doesn’t deal with any important themes, it’s not serious, it’s gratuitous and artificial and anachronistic and just way too far-fetched.

Anxiously, I took a long break over the weekend. I returned to the draft with some trepidation yesterday afternoon and was relieved to find that my passion for the story had returned! I rewrote Chapter 8, and plodded on with Chapter 12 at a slower, steadier rate, empowered by melodic drum & bass tunes and a sneaky little bit of Ariana Grande ft. Zedd (the video clip has a scrolling intro, aliens and boob rockets—how could I not like it?!).

Speaking of music, I have to gush about a song. I am madly in love with this tune. I was walking down the street listening to it and I almost leapt up and punched the air like a crazy kickboxer. It was extremely difficult to resist the urge. (I sort of did a little punch, inconspicuously.)

 

It’s a remix of Chromeo’s Lost on the Way Home by Mat Zo, and it’s the most perfectly bizarre mash-up of genres. A drum & bass remix of an electro-funk song? The result: bouncy liquid goodness. The intro is a little wacky, but give it a shot!

If you’re not a fan of drum & bass, the original is pretty smooth stuff, too.

Also, if you’re a fan of EDM and want a great way to support a good cause and get something back at the same time, check out Bass for Autism Vol. 2.

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One thing I struggled with towards the end of this month is working from home. Contrary to all my declarations about being a hermit, I’m actually someone who can’t stand being cooped up all day. I’m quite restless. I can’t sit still for more than half an hour; I start getting an urge to stand up and walk around. Even watching a full-length movie in a theatre is pushing my limit of sitting still, and when the credits roll I can’t wait to hop up and stretch. So, sitting in front of a computer for many hours a day is physically challenging. Towards evening, my body feels sloth-like and my eyes feel fried.

I’ve tried to work around this in several ways: making sure I take a rest break at least every hour, going for walks, changing it up by writing in a cafe or public place. But I’ll have to think of something more. I used to be able to play soccer nearly every day, but sadly that’s not something I can do at the moment.

Overall, it’s been a fun and relaxing first month of full-time writing, with some unpredictable challenges. I’m excited to see where my second month of writing takes me.

Movie Review: Made in Australia

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I first met Matthew Victor Pastor on a train station platform in Melbourne, perhaps seven years ago, when he was a film student. Since then, Pastor has gone on to create several award-winning short films, as well as his self-exploratory full-length feature, Made in Australia, which won Best Guerilla Film at the Melbourne Underground Film Festival 2013.

Made in Australia is a tell-all autobiographical tale that engulfs the viewer with its rawness and intimacy. We are compelled to keep watching this downward spiral of colliding relationships almost out of a sense of voyeurism and horrified curiosity. The lines between fact and fiction are blurred, as some actors, or “players”, portray themselves, including Pastor, his Hong Kong amour Janice Keung, and his parents.

Pastor takes the viewer on his coming-of-age story. From the opening scenes of Janice, naked and sobbing in a bathtub, and Pastor, standing nude on a beach with all his imperfections in front of the camera, the viewer knows at once that this is a film that won’t hold back. We travel with him from his present-day relationships back to the Hong Kong of several years ago, and to his tumultuous affair with an older woman. The film explores themes of humiliation, “losing face”, identity, the collision of Western and Chinese cultures, and the full spectrum of human emotion. Pastor doesn’t shy away from showing the messy, bitter nature of intimate relationships, and the way they fall apart.

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Pastor plays himself commendably. He has a manner that is wonderfully self-deprecating and yet, somehow, narcissistic and over-dramatic. His youthful character, who gives way to all his emotions, runs into traffic impulsively, and shouts out unrealistically melodramatic phrases almost as though he just wants to see their effect on the other, contrasts with the reserved, composed, sad, and fascinating Janice, who has a story of her own that we only glimpse in pieces.

One of the best moments of the film was a freeze-frame in the midst of heightened tension, when Pastor’s voiceover states “people act very strange when they lose face”. Pastor prods at the Asian phenomenon of “losing face,” ie. losing respect, dignity, sense of self-worth, but never really pursues this theme further. The film has several of these moments that hint at more powerful themes but ultimately zooms back in to the tale of the protagonists.

I enjoyed the patient, tense editing of Made in Australia and the wonderful use of silence, static and basic colours. The gritty feel of Hong Kong was also conveyed through detailed shots of apartment blocks, abandoned lots, discarded rubble, views of the bay, hotel rooms, elevators and little details inside the apartments.

Overall, Made in Australia is a striking debut film that is brutally honest and bursting with lust and emotion. It’s an interesting exploration of the lies we tell ourselves and others, and the various faces we wear in the hope of achieving happiness. Pastor has a clear obsession with personal stories, emotions to the brink of madness, and relationships. He tells his own tale unflinchingly.

Before Watchmen: Ozymandias/Crimson Corsair

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After reading and reviewing  Before Watchmen: Nite Owl/Dr Manhattan a couple of weeks ago, I was left with mixed feelings. Nevertheless, I couldn’t resist trying a second book in DC’s spin-off series. And of course, it had to be Ozymandias.

The books themselves are hardcover volumes with lovely, glossy pages and vivid colours. The title and contents pages are done in classic Watchmen yellow. At the back of the book are several pages of extra artwork, mostly character sketches—a joy to browse.

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Ozymandias #1-6 Collected – Writer: Len Wein; Artist: Jae Lee

As soon as I read the first few pages of Ozymandias’ story arc, I was hooked. Firstly, Len Wein’s writing style was much more lavish, rich, and just delightful than J. Michael Straczynski’s in Nite Owl. I relished his command and confidence with language. As the story is an autobiographical account, this works well: Wein gives Veidt a grand, egotistical voice that adds to the almost-deification of mortal into god, as Veidt attempts to change the fate of humanity.

Jae Lee’s also provides stunning line work to complement the story. The best parts of Lee’s art included daring side-profiles and powerful illustrations of movement and combat. A visually marvellous work.

The Ozymandias arc provides backstory into Veidt’s early life and then his choices in the lead up to the events of Watchmen. It’s a thought-provoking character study of a man whose lofty ideals justify personal atrocities. Overall, a great read. Liked how it tied into 20th century events. Loved that the Comedian got some screen time, too. 4 out of 5 stars.

The Curse of the Crimson Corsair – Writer: Len Wein & John Higgins; Artist: John Higgins

Reads a lot like Pirates of the Caribbean. Young Scotsman Gordon McClachlan survives a shipwreck and is scooped up by the undead crew of the Flying Dutchmen, captained by the Crimson Corsair, a tough guy in a bandanna who says creepy things. McClachlan must then embark on a quest to regain his soul. I’m still not too sure where this story fits in to the whole Watchmen universe. It stands alone; perhaps a sister story to Tales of the Black Freighter, the serial pirate-horror comic that was interspersed throughout the story of Watchmen. Maybe I missed something? Altogether entirely average: entertaining but only moderately satisfying. 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Dollar Bill – Writer: Len Wein; Artist: Steve Rude

Bonus story! Gotta love that. A short snippet of Dollar Bill’s life—from athletic but academically-stunted high school student, to struggling actor, and eventually to caped mascot. Because he draws heaps of publicity, Dollar Bill is accepted into Minutemen, but almost as soon as his adventures begin, he meets his tragic end. 3 out of 5 stars, I guess. It was a little funny.

Redeemed the series for me! I may pick up yet another volume. Stay tuned :)

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My ALS Ice Bucket Challenge – please watch to the end!