I think, to an extent, everybody has body image issues. Not everyone will suffer to the same degree and many people will be able to ignore those thoughts so that they don’t intrude on their day-to-day life. But for some of us, our body image can be debilitating.

Up until the age of 14 I was completely unaware of my body; I was a slim but healthy child and early-teen, a somewhat fussy eater, and a competitive fencer. My body was simply a vessel for me to have fun and body image didn’t even occupy 1% of my thoughts. But then I went through a traumatic event and, overnight, my body became the one thing I absolutely hated and negative thoughts about my body image suddenly occupied 100% of my headspace. Shortly after, I developed anorexia which stuck with me for about 12 years. My eating disorder was mostly about a need for control and wanting everything to be perfect, but it was my body that became a channel for that control. No matter how much weight I lost, I was still convinced that I was ‘big’ – ‘big’ was always the word I’d choose to describe myself, rather than ‘fat’, as it felt like I was taking up too much space in the world, but that ‘big-ness’ was all-consuming for me and made me deeply unhappy.

In my late teens I discovered running and used this as another channel for burning calories and controlling my body; even when I was tiny I’d still see a ‘big’ body when I caught my reflection on a surface and because of this, I’d be training on minimal fuel and turning up to races having not eaten. Unsurprisingly, I wasn’t doing very well in my running at that point in my life and yet I still kept pushing because I was convinced that, one day, I’d finally be satisfied with how my body looked (spoiler: that day never came!).

Eventually, and with the encouragement of our ASICS FrontRunner community manager, I gave recovery another go as an adult (you can read more about my recovery journey here). What was interesting about my recovery this time was that, although food and restoring weight was obviously a big focus, an equally significant focus for me was to fix my body image, because this was ultimately what was holding me back.

Now, I must preface the next few points by saying that my body image is not always brilliant, but I hope some of my thoughts are helpful to other people suffering:

Whilst not every day is a great body image day for me, I am in a much better place with it these days than I ever have been, and my body has reverted to that childlike stage of being a vessel for fun once again which feels rather liberating. 

written by

Victoria Stears

Head of Global Marketing - Sports/Education Sector from London

Age group: 34

10k olympic distance triathlon swim-run half marathon marathon ultra marathon