Emma Coolen - FC Eindhoven - KickItLikeJas.com

The day I started counting calories

I thought long and hard about whether or not I wanted to write this week’s blog. This story is a lot more personal, and a lot less happy and upbeat than what my website has been like so far. But since I know many people are struggling with the same thing, I really hope someone out there finds some use in reading my story.

Baby fat

I can’t remember a time when I’ve felt really skinny. I was never overweight, but never particularly slim either. Until far into puberty I joked that I was still trying to lose some of my baby fat. Jokes that served the purpose to hide that I, like almost every girl my age, was very insecure about the way I looked.

A little over two years ago, when I started taking soccer a lot more serious, the perfect opportunity arose for me to get the body I had always wanted, but had always lacked the discipline to work for.

In the beginning it went really well. I was eating a lot leaner, stopped drinking alcohol, and was learning a lot about which nutrients to eat for optimal performance on the pitch. Within several months, I lost 8 kilos (17 pounds),  gained quite a few muscles and often got complimented on the way I looked. Old jeans, that had been stuffed in the back of my closet after high school since I no longer could hoist them over my thighs, suddenly fit again. And the funny thing is, when you get so many compliments on your physical appearance, you take some side effects for granted.

Counting, counting, counting

In those days, I was often dizzy, simply because I wasn’t eating enough for the amount of hours I was training on the field or in the gym. At a certain moment, I spent most of my waking hours counting calories. ‘If I train for an x amount of hours, I burn approximately this number of calories, which means I can eat this and this afterwards.’ It’s devilish math, but once you’ve started, it’s hard to stop. But when at a certain point my body was no longer functioning like it was supposed to, I called the hospital, and admitted to the people around me that I might be having a problem.

It’s absolutely true that society these days puts huge pressure on young girls to be thin. For someone who has always felt just a little too big and has been troubled by insecurities all her life, trying to think about food like an athlete would might be adding fuel to the wrong fire. Wanting to look good is not a sin, and neither is striving for a well-trained body for the optimal athletic performance. But to all the girls that read this and who recognize my story in the tiniest way, please, never forget that your health is so much more important than all those other things. And when you notice that you spend big parts of your day thinking about what and when to eat, talk to someone about it. For you, I’m always available.

I’m doing a lot better these days. Sure, I’m not too happy about the fact that my belly has gotten back some of its fat, and my body is still trying to recover from all the underfueled training sessions I put it through, but I’m on the right track. And if, at the next birthday party, you see me politely refusing a slice of cake, please don’t worry too much. I’m still searching for the perfect balance between discipline and occasionally enjoying myself. But in the end, I do everything with The Great Goal in mind: the 2019 Women’s World Cup. The goal is no longer to be as skinny as possible. And that fact is a victory in and of itself.

Emma - Signature