Some Background on my Body

Part One of "Learning, Losing, and Low Reward"


Full disclosure: this series of posts will be about health, fitness, weight, and diet.

  As a child, I was not blessed with grace or beauty or coordination. I could never throw a ball or run fast, and I always seemed to trip over my feet and walk into the corners of tables. (As a matter of fact, I still have all of these problems, but I digress.) Once, when I was describing to my boyfriend what I looked like as a kid, I told him to picture an overweight child model for a country-club rapidly going out of business.

Child Alina I am the one in the middle, and we will never speak about this picture again.

When I was about ten-years-old, though, my parents signed me up for a spring break gymnastics camp at our YMCA, and a very strange thing happened: my body just got it.

I was fat and had never exercised in my life, but for some reason, gymnastics made sense to me; it felt right in my body, and at the end of that first day, a coach pulled my mother aside and told her that I ought to join their competitive team.

At the time, I didn't really know what that meant, but I was told that I would get to do a lot more gymnastics, and that was good enough for me. I said yes, and I was back the next night for my first practice.

Over the years, those twice-per-week practices became three and four times per week, totaling sixteen or so hours—and that's during the school year; summer practices were a full-time job. Competitions became longer, and I had to travel farther, first a few hours by car, then flying to meets as they got bigger and more competitive.

The fat kid who showed up at a camp was replaced by an athlete who didn't really understand her own strength. (When I was fourteen, I was doing sets of ten pull-ups and dips and climbing ropes with only my arms.) My body looked like this (I'm in the orange):Alina in middle school

And then like this:

I was active like I'd never been before, and by simply doing what I loved doing, I was happier, healthier, lighter.

By the start of my junior year of high school, though, I was tired. I didn't want to deal with the long hours, the sore body, the stress from competitions, so I quit, cold turkey, and I didn't look back.

And then, my body changed again. Having spent so many years in a gym, working out like it was my job, I didn't understand that once I stopped training, I would gain weight—lots of it.

When I graduated high school, I hit the highest weight I've ever been (and hopefully ever will be).

(I'm still the one in the middle.)

This picture was taken a little over four years ago, and since then, I've lost forty pounds, and I'm stronger than I ever was as a gymnast. It's taken a long time and a lot of hard work, but for the first time, I feel good about the way my body looks and the things it can do.

This picture was taken a few weeks ago:

Shapes on a dock. Not a bad way to spend my last day at home.

A photo posted by Alina (@alina_maren) on

Across the next few posts, I'll talk more about what I've done to lose weight and get stronger, and while I won't make any recommendations (because I'm not a doctor), I will say what worked for me.