I Quit Starving Myself and Broke a World Record
by Haley Randall
Most of what I have been able to accomplish, both personally and in strength sports, is because of the sense of self love that I have worked hard to foster within myself over the last several years. What largely allowed me to do this was my involvement (okay, obsession) with strength sports, at first powerlifting and now strongman.
I was not always the person that I am today.
A lot of life experiences led to my poor body image and disordered eating growing up. Once when I was 8-years-old, I overheard a babysitter call another girl fat and say that is why she had no friends. In middle school I was tormented for being fat by the other kids in my class, which led to yo-yo dieting and binging and purging in high school. I eventually got to the place I was eating under 1,000 calories a day while doing 2-3 hours of cardio.
Even though I lost a total of 70 pounds doing this, I still thought that I was fat - despite being able to see my ribs. Everyone in my life said that I looked “amazing.” At this point, my body had enough. I did not lose any more weight from that point forward, and actually shot up about 20 pounds to a much healthier weight, much to my dismay.
I discovered strength sports shortly thereafter. Suddenly, my goals were performance based. I realized pretty quickly that starving my body that was so good to me was no way to achieve my athletic goals. I eventually got to the point that I am at now where I truly love my body and am satisfied with myself no matter what the scale says.
And I have strength sports to thank for that.
Unfortunately, when you are truly happy with yourself and accomplishing things that others cannot, you become a magnet for negativity. My success in strength sports meant I grew a social media following, and this added to the amount of online trolling that I received.
I was initially shocked by the things that a total stranger would say about someone that they had no relationship to whatsoever and had never met.
And worst of all:
“Wow, you used to be hot” on a before and after comparison of me with an eating disorder and me now.
One of the accomplishments that I am truly most proud of in my life is that these comments do not even phase me. In fact, through support from the other women in the strength community and my own well-developed sense of who I am and what my goals are, I generally laugh at them.
Then, something interesting happened. The more that I celebrated myself and my body publicly, the more I noticed other young women would comment and reach out to me stating that they related to my body type and that seeing someone who looked like them have so much self confidence was making them feel better about themselves. I had truly become the type of woman that I needed when I was a young girl, and I don’t think that there is a better feeling in the world.
This caused another shift in me.
As a lawyer, my job is to advocate fiercely for others. That skill has carried over and I advocate hard for these women and girls who look up to me. I see negative comments about the weight and appearance of female athletes as young as 14-years-old by grown adults and my blood boils.
If I had to face comments like the ones that these girls are receiving when I was their age, I would have given up lifting completely. It’s not even a question. That is the last thing that I want to see happen, and I will not go down without a fight ensuring that it does not.
That is why pages like You Look Like a Man matter. We need to come together and protect each other, and particularly the next generation. The world is shifting in the right direction and its up to us to keep it moving forward rather than regressing to the place that it was when I was 15.
THIS is why negative comments about my body are not welcome on my social media. It is not because they hurt my feelings. It is not because that person “got to me.” It is because that nonsense is the absolute last thing that I want a young girl who follows me and looks up to me reading when she has just started to feel confident and comfortable with herself – exactly how she is.
The things that you say to others, whether it be online or face to face, matter. Just because you have the shield of anonymity on the internet, that does not mean that you are shielded from consequences – and you may in fact be doing a great deal of harm to another human being.
You may trigger an eating disorder.
You may kill newly fledged self confidence.
You may take a young girl headed in the right direction and put her down the path that I had to struggle through before I got to the point that I am at today.
Think about what you say – because we aren’t standing for it anymore.
Haley Randall (@haley_randall_lifts) is an attorney out of Windsor, Ontario, a strongman competitor, and one of You Look Like a Man’s biggest fans. She holds the world record in the axle deadlift at 574lbs.