I've been involved in sports since I was five years old. It ranged from soccer to volleyball to gymnastics. I LOVED being active and playing with my friends. I didn't eat the healthiest throughout my elementary and middle school years (But what kid does?). I absolutely loved chocolate or anything sweet. I was never overweight, but I wasn't healthy.

In seventh grade, I lost my period for months and enjoyed every minute of it. At the time, I hadn't the slightest idea of what that actually meant. It's not healthy. I just knew that I was free to wear a bikini all summer without worry. I ended up quitting soccer when I was 13 to join my school's track and field team. There, I started out with sprints like the 100-meter dash. My eating didn't change much, but I was still fairly tiny.

In high school, everything changed.

I joined my school's track team to run the 400-meter dash my first year. I ran well — well enough to join cross country the next year. If I could race a lap, I can race about three miles, right? The next three years of my high school career opened new opportunities for me to race mid-distance events: the 800, 1000, and the mile. However, I noticed my body changing. My butt got bigger, arms got more muscular, my thighs grew, I gained weight, etc. I had to eat more to support my exercise intake. In races, I wasn't stepping up to the line with as much confidence because I was bigger than other girls.

I wasn't built like a distance runner.

I felt awkward running cross country. I felt awkward wearing spandex. I felt like an outcast — I was no longer comfortable running in my own skin. I hated eating because I was so scared of getting bigger. I weighed myself everyday to make sure I wasn't gaining any more weight. Every time I did eat, I'd go exercise to burn it off. This eventually led to my body shutting down in my second race of the season — and that's when I knew I couldn't fight it anymore.

I had to learn how to be comfortable with this new body. I started eating healthier and weighing myself less. I'd see girls who were smaller than me running and beating me, so I thought that I had to be a certain size to run fast. Once I admitted to myself that I'll never be as small as those other girls, I started to run those same times, but with my own body.

Today, I still struggle with body image, but I have to remind myself that everyone is different. We all have different bodies with different functions. My goal is to be STRONG. Not small. To be LEAN. Not skinny. I may not look the part — but it's important not to count myself out of the race when it hasn't even started yet. I love to run. To race.

I hope other girls can continue to be confident and comfortable with their own body because it's unique and it's completely theirs to show off to the world.