I Am an Active Woman—At Any Weight


Samantha Strong

HGTV hummed in the background and a stack of gossip magazines were lazily stacked on the table next to me. My hands rested on my lap, tightly woven together. Thumbs anxiously pressed against each other, I hummed to myself. A combination of Beyoncé and Sylvan Esso circulated through my head — my pump up music driving to the office. I was nervous.

Content note: graphic account of weighing

The room had that typical waiting room sense of calm and fatigue — a damp heaviness reminiscent of a summer evening in DC. I wrung my fingers and trapped them under my thighs, hoping to ease my nervous energy. Thirty seconds later they were back on my lap, twisted into an anxious knot.

I was at the doctor’s office, waiting for a routine check-up and exam. Typically a mundane way to spend the afternoon, but this was different. The nurse called my name and pointed me toward the first room on the right — I saw the scale in the corner. She took my blood pressure and attempted light conversation. Her voice was in a tunnel, and I just laughed and nodded when the time seemed right. She gestured to the scale and, not wanting to make a scene, I stepped on. The burden of years of anxiety, restriction, and inadequacy weighed heavily on my shoulders. With that same dry tone she used to say hello, she announced the number and scribbled it on her clipboard.

In college, I weighed myself regularly.

Every visit to the campus rec center involved stepping on the scale two, maybe three times a day. Miles and reps were added to workouts if the number was deemed too high; meals skipped even if it remained the same. The scale had a hypnotic power over me. An allure I could not deny. For years, the scale determined my attitude, appetite, and confidence. It honed my ability to control my cravings and cut off all communication with my body, physically and emotionally. My sense of worth and empowerment was transient, and the scale provided a clean and easy means of measuring my value to the world. The ritual was sacred.

A series of injuries and a shift from collegiate triathlon to amateur cycling forced me away from the gym. Away from the scale. The ritual became more infrequent and, eventually, nonexistent. Pathways opened, and I began the process of healing — of learning to listen to my body and isolate my worth from metrics.

But the familiar comfort, the sacred nature of the scale, continues to taunt me.

When I stepped on that scale two weeks ago, I was terrified.

It wasn’t the number that scared me so much as myself. Diminished self-worth seemed imminent, and stepping on that scale felt as though I was opening the door for my eating disorder, welcoming it into my home, and inviting it to stay a while. It brought me eye-to-eye with my past struggles and pains. And yet, in that split moment as I registered the number on the screen, I felt nothing. No remorse. No pain. No rejection. I felt the exact same as I did before I knew the number. I opened the door, and no one was there.

I finished up the appointment and walked into that stagnant waiting room elated. I was overwhelmed with a sense of pride for my body, for its health and resilience. Its strength and curves. Being a woman no longer seems like a burden, and being an active woman no longer seems so well-defined. I am an active woman. At any weight.

I have a newfound sense of ownership and gratitude. This body is mine. Every pound. Every curve. Every muscle. It’s me. It’s unapologetically me. An athlete, a friend, an advocate, a woman.

This piece originally appeared on and is republished with permission. 

Samantha is a co-founder of the Lane 9 Project, a nonprofit aiming to empower women struggling in the ninth lane, the unspoken but very present mindset many women and girls run in. There isn’t a ninth lane on the track. There isn’t a well-defined path to eating disorder recovery. There isn’t enough known about the impacts of under-fueling and over-excising the female body. There isn’t one way to have an eating disorder, amenorrhea, or the female athlete triad.

We work to bring coaches, teachers, parents, and female runners together to increase awareness of eating disorder signs and symptoms, along with the risks and long-term effects of missed periods and under-fueling for our bodies’ needs. We believe recovery is ongoing and running is a part of it. 

If you’re an active woman with disordered eating and/or amenorrhea, we want you to know you’re not alone, you’re not stuck, and you’re not done. This project will be your community, and hopefully the start of your recovery. 

If you’re an active lady or lady health activist, coach, mentor, parent, or healthcare provider, let us know through our community form. If you want to share your story, get in touch with us through the form or by emailing Lane9Project [at] gmail [dot] com. If you just want to follow along, check out our blog and say hi on Twitter.