January 31, 2014

Accepting Your Body at Any Size : Lessons from Roller Derby

Photo of  Houston team Yellow Rose Derby Girls by Steve Beard

In a culture obsessed with thinness, it was sort of surprising at first to see a sport that encouraged women  to embrace whatever body type they had, but that is exactly what happens in the sport of roller derby. If you ever go to a roller derby game, you will notice there are thin girls, short girls, amazonian girls. It is a wonderful motley crew. Each of these body types carries some advantage in the sport. If you are short, and small, you may be able to get low enough to get past your opponents, whereas being bigger may give you extra strength to block or hit your opponents.  


Roller derby turns all of the regular conventions of the "right" body type on its head. A prime example of this is a player named Beyonslay. She learned to use her larger size to her advantage. She is pretty amazing as the video link below attests. And because she is so amazing at using her larger body, it starts to subtly change the way everyone on the team looks at weight and body type.  
The Queen City Roller Girls,  who wrote a piece about how roller derby encourages a positive body image had this to say,

The importance of "looking your best" is taught to girls from a young age and is continually stressed as necessary for success. Unfortunately, this lesson in proper self-care too often forgets about what may be your best and instead teaches us that we should aim to achieve whatever is considered to be the best, an ideal. The western ideal of an unrealistically thin, feminine and toned physique prevents many women from feeling satisfied with their own bodies, but it’s never too late to break the cycle.

Because roller derby defies the notion of an "ideal body type" skaters often enjoy a more positive body image and an increased confidence in what they and their bodies are capable of, a confidence which often carries over from the track to other aspects of living. When asked how roller derby has affected her self-image one Houston skater responded, "I was so excited to be part of a sport where you could be any body type, personality or background and still be accepted. This alone helps me to view myself as worthy and not needing to change anything.”

Before you spend a lot of time, energy and money trying to change your body, I encourage you to first focus on how you can embrace the unique and wonderful body you were given. Find ways to use your body that help you feel strong, beautiful, and useful. For some women, roller derby has done that.  For you, it may be something else. Don't be afraid to try something new, or to even get the wind knocked out of you. By using your body to do something you didn't think possible, you may find yourself feeling more capable and accepting than ever.

Struggling with your body image? Our Houston counselor are available for face to face sessions. Contact us to find out how we can help you feel good in your own body.

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