soccer

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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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.

Week 3 of Hermit Life + Game Review: To the Moon

Reading: Before Watchmen – Ozymandias/Crimson Corsair
Listening: Owsey & Resotone – Broke My Promise & Stared to the Sea; Klingande – Jubel
Watching: Elementary, Parks & Recreation, Korra, eagerly awaiting the Twelfth Doctor…

I’m in my third week of writing life!

I’ve written about 15,000 words of a first draft—some of it I’m happy with, some of it I know I’ll need to rewrite later. I’m also revelling in my newfound freedom with all the joy and abandon of a pig in a bog. I’ve been watching stuff, reading stuff, studying stuff and, when my introverted side is entirely sated, crawling out of my hole to achieve social connection.

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Over the weekend, I tried fancy pizza and gelato in Fitzroy. I explored the fowl wonders of Melbourne (my friend organised a city-roaming, chicken-eating adventure) and devoured chicken cooked in Taiwanese, Chinese and Korean fashions. I also played too much soccer, after chugging Nurofen last week and luring myself into a false sense of recovery. After unusual amounts of physical activity on Sunday, and a game on Monday, my ankle is killing me, but not as much as the fact that I have so much time to play, but my body isn’t physically allowing me to do so :(

So today I am resigned to being a couch potato. Whilst I am sedentary, I thought I’d do a quick review of the indie adventure point-and-click game, To the Moon. This game came highly commended to me several months ago by my dear friend Frank. I’m not at all a gamer, so bear in mind that I have zero qualification or authority to write this review. That being said, it’s a lovely, short introduction to the gaming world for a non-gamer, or for anyone who likes a good story.

To the Moon was designed by Kan “Reives” Gao and released in November 2011. It’ s a simple, 2D point-and-click role playing game that tells the story of an old man named Johnny who, on his deathbed, contacts Sigmund Corp, an agency that has the technology to implant artificial memories in a person’s mind. Johnny has an inexplicable wish to go to the moon, and two doctors arrive at his house to delve back into his memories and fulfil Johnny’s wish. As they explore Johnny’s past, an intriguing story emerges surround his late wife, River, and Johnny’s childhood.

Playing To the Moon is really more like reading an animated novel or watching an interactive movie than playing a game. I didn’t really feel like I had become a gamer through this four-hour experience! The story is sweet, clever, poignant and had a good amount of unpredictability. I appreciated how every character had a personality, especially the Drs Eva Rosalene and Neil Watts, who had some hilariously entertaining dialogue between them.

Although the graphics are pretty basic, they are cute and also pleasantly eerie at different points in the story. The gameplay, I have to say, was frustrating and slow at some points. Wandering around multiple scenes to collect various hidden ‘mementos’ became repetitive and frustrating, particularly as I just wanted to find out what happened next in the story.

I guess that goes to show that although the story is a little soppy, it definitely did fascinate me, perplex me and leave me wanting to play more every time we took a break. The thing that really completes this game is the beautiful, evocative soundtrack. The threads of For River that float through the game really highlight, to me, the tenderness of the tale and the attention to detail.

A clever, emotional story with an interesting science-fiction premise that can be played through in about four hours.