“She has my dress!” I exclaimed as I stared down the bleachers at my Homecoming Dance crowning ceremony junior year of high school. She would. Staring at Alli’s matching Bebe flapper-style dress, I instantly imagined us going head-to-head on Fashion Police’s “Who Wore It Best?” My immature Mean Girl-self smugly thought, “She might win every track, basketball and volleyball game, but I win this one, Alli Alberts” as I stood there in my strappy heels, brass bangles and bronzer galore. In retrospect, Alli probably took the crown for that one too with her blonde curls, understated accessories and bangin’ bod.
While she was our high school’s varsity athlete sweetheart, Valedictorian and regular Prom Court member, I was better known for my extreme girliness, awful golf game but freakish flip cup skills. I’ll never forget returning home for Winter Break in college and mentioning that girls at ASU thought I was athletic because I exercised a lot. She fell on the floor laughing.
Fast forward to my latest Alli Alberts encounter. We were in Nashville a few months ago for a girl friend’s bachelorette party and somewhere between matching black crop tops and tons of beer, we realized we’re actually not that different anymore. She shares my belief in trying everything once, getting a little crazy but getting shit done. And now that one of us is an avid Crossfit fan and one a Legends Football League Wide Receiver & Safety for Chicago Bliss (girl crush), we also share a similar physique, as well as our share of body image issues and lessons we’ve learned from them.
As an Aquarius, the one thing I always strive for is to be unique. When I first saw Annie Janssen across our high school gym wearing my “one of a kind find” Bebe dress, my confidence was shattered. I had recently cut off all my long blonde hair, gained at least 10 lbs from starting birth control, and immediately began profusely pit sweating in a flesh colored dress. Needless to say, Joan Rivers would’ve eaten me alive (rest in peace). Score one for Annie.
As much as I hate to admit it, I was the “varsity athlete sweetheart,” and yes, yes I did just vomit in my mouth a little. I was the girl who wore Express jeans and a hoodie to school every day, thought make-up consisted of my berry flavored Blistex, and spoke to no one unless I’d known them since I was seven. Apparently, being mute means you’re sweet. Annie, on the other hand, was the fashionista of our small town, frankly the most creative and talented artist I knew, and fucking gorgeous. To this day, I am still jealous of her superior flip cup skills.
For me, Annie was one of those girls I always wanted to be friends with, but didn’t know how. Maybe it was because in high school, we did seem so different. After two years in the LFL, my teammates taught me a little bit about how to be a girl. Hair extensions, fake eyelashes, and a free LA tan membership later, I’ve finally got a clue about what Annie was talking about.
Weight Loss Roller Coaster
Growing up playing every sport known to man meant I had a very slim and trim athletic body, which sounds awesome doesn’t it? What I think a lot of girls fail to realize is that every girl on this planet has body image issues. Add an athletic frame to hitting puberty at 16, and that’s called wearing a training bra until you are a junior in high school. Pretty sure my boobs went into my chest instead of outward. If I wanted anything to fit tight, I would have to sew the sides of the extra-small with my sewing machine. All I wanted were some goddamn boobs! (Side note: I finally got them senior year right before I wore that matching Bebe dress. Thanks for ruining that milestone, Annie.)
Skip ahead a couple years to freshman year in college. Riding the bench at a Division III school was not how I pictured my college initiation, so I drowned my sorrows in a healthy amount of cheesecake, ice cream, and brownie sundaes…sometimes all together. I went from fit to fat in 2 months flat. I know everyone gets the freshman 15, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still suck, especially when you are known for having a six pack.
College continued to be a roller coaster ride of weight fluctuations, and I was obsessed with the drops. At one point during sophomore year track season (after a bout of mono), I got down to 133 lbs, which for my 5’9.5’’ frame, really wasn’t healthy. I would continue to get skinny, binge eat, get skinny, binge eat, get skinny. Being an athlete made it pretty easy to do considering all I had to do was stop eating Nestle Tollhouse cookie sandwiches before practice and mounds of tater tots after practice. This behavior continued for the remainder of undergrad.
Next up: dental school. Now was the real test. I can’t tell you how many people told me I was going to blow up in dental school because of my eating habits (and rightfully so). Because of this, I was determined to stay fit. Let me rephrase. Because of this, I was determined not to get fat. I went to the gym almost every day, did elliptical, weights, whatever I needed to do to burn as many calories as I could in as little time as possible. It sort of worked. I never really got fat, but I never really loved my body either. I was stuck in that shitty zone I like to call “ew.”
Our class did a spring break trip 1st year, and in order to prepare for it, my friend and I decided to be “rexic” for three weeks. This included eating as little calories as possible while going to the gym every day and working off hopefully every last calorie consumed. If you didn’t get dizzy while standing up, you weren’t working hard enough. If you could go to sleep without shaking, you definitely were a fattie that day. We made a joke of it while we were doing it, but it was probably the unhealthiest thing I’ve ever accomplished.
Loving What You Have
So, what was really the purpose of all this yo-yo dieting I had been doing to myself for almost 10 years at this point? I’ll tell you. I desperately wanted to be skinny. Not fit skinny, but ‘I can wear the shortest skirt you’ve ever seen and my thighs still don’t touch’ skinny. When I was 16, all I wanted were boobs, and when I was 17, all I wanted was to fit back into my size 0 long jeans again. I wasn’t ready to accept my body when I was a kid, and I certainly wasn’t ready to accept my body as a woman. I hated sports for bulking up my thighs, making it impossible for me to ever get back down to a size I thought was hot. It wasn’t until I found the LFL that I began to think differently.
We get a lot of criticism for what we wear, and of course I understand the argument. While it might be totally valid, there are other perspectives. For the first time in my life, I saw the body of a female athlete celebrated. When’s the last time you saw a Victoria’s Secret supermodel who had massive quads? Let me tell you: never. These bitches were killing it, and men were loving it. It was like a lightbulb finally went on in my brain. Wait a second…guys think my hamstrings are sexy?! Why don’t I think my hamstrings are sexy? How could it have taken me 26 years to realize the body that God gave me was awesome?
People ask me about our uniforms all the time. “How can you wear that?” “It’s so sexist!” “I can’t believe you subject your body to that.” Is it sexist? Absolutely. Do I give a shit? Absolutely not. As a young girl, I wish I would’ve had more female role models to look up to who were proud and unapologetic for their hot, athletic bodies. Finally, we have those women, and I’m proud to be a part of them. Never in my life have I felt this pretty. Never has my self-esteem been this high. Never have I stopped caring about what other girls have, and just loved what I was given. I owe that all to this crazy league.
I Am Not Marissa Miller
The funny thing that happens when you start loving your body is you also start caring about what goes in it. Three-hour football practices certainly helped me whip my body into shape, but I also began eating a lot healthier. (Don’t get me wrong I still eat Papa Johns like it’s my job, but I eat a small instead of a large now, so that’s like totes half the calories). While I still add my winter fat coat like any normal Midwest girl, there has still been a paradigm shift. No matter what I used to do to burn calories, or build muscle, or eat, or not eat, I was never going to get to that Marissa Miller body. This meant no matter what I did, I was going to fail because I am not Marissa Miller. I am Alli Alberts. This failure meant I was going to eat the FUCK out of some pizza, popcorn, and ice cream until I felt better about myself. Of course, I still eat that stuff when I want to because my taste buds like it. However, it’s not my savior anymore. This tiny little shift in philosophy has made a world of difference in my life, most notably my body.
I’m not saying I’m not still jealous of other girls’ body parts. I’ll tell you right now I’m jealous of Annie’s legs. But, I also love my legs, and I don’t think I’d trade them anymore. My lips could be a little plumper though…[hr]