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Megan Betsa: How I Overcame Body Image Issues My Senior Year

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Megan Betsa (Courtesy of Michigan Athletics)

It started in January 2016 and then came back during Super Regionals. I felt like I tried everything to get rid of the pain. I saw doctors, tried various types of medicine, therapy, strengthening programs and yoga. You name it, I did it.

Some of you may know or remember that I suffered from a pretty severe back injury my junior year at Michigan. After the season, I finally got a diagnosis. I had a stress fracture in my vertebrae. The doctor told me the healing time was eight to 10 weeks with no impact on my back. That’s extremely difficult to do as a pitcher.

I ended up sitting out from softball for almost five months. I missed the entire fall and was extremely limited in what I was able to do. I couldn’t lift more than 25-30 pounds for six months and wasn’t allowed to run, jump, or pitch. I relied on getting my conditioning through biking, walking and swimming.

This isn’t to say that I wasn’t working hard because I genuinely believe I had to work harder during the time that I was injured than I did when I was healthy. I was kept out of conditioning for almost my entire senior year. No running, just biking.

What wasn’t brought to my attention though, was how to change my eating habits. I still ate as if I wasn’t injured. I didn’t notice the weight gain as it was happening, but when I stepped on the scale for my physical, my mind was blown.

The scale read 208 pounds and I cried. I couldn’t believe I gained 25 pounds during my senior year. I decided it was time to make a change.

Body image issues are a real thing. Excessive exercise is a real thing. I experienced both. I started back running, I joined Orange Theory and, for a little while, became obsessed. I was running five miles a day, four to five times a week. I went to Orange Theory EVERY DAY!

I became obsessed with my caloric intake. It was unhealthy at first, but I didn’t see that because I thought I was becoming healthier by doing all of this. I lost 35 pounds in four months. I was at my lowest weight since high school.

As I continued working out, I started loving it. It was no longer about punishing my body for what I ate, or HAVING to work out because I NEEDED to look a certain way. My body was strong and powerful. I tested myself every day to see what I was capable of. It became my own little competition since I couldn’t compete on the field anymore.

The major switch came when I started to compete with myself instead of competing with other women on social media. This is when I thought about becoming a certified personal trainer, but I doubted myself. I didn’t think I was smart enough or had enough time or though people would actually listen to me.

Then I stopped making it about other people and I did it for myself. It was a way to hold myself accountable, something I could take pride in. So I did it and was astounded by the support I received from my friends and family. Now, I get to help women who were in the same situation I was in and it is so rewarding!

As a Division I athlete many people assume you are automatically healthy. This is true in a sense. You work out four to six days a week which automatically is better for your health, but nutrition is such a big area that people forget about.

When you’re in college, you grab food on the go a lot. You don’t make time to cook because you have weights, class, practice, study hall and anything else you may have thrown on your plate for the semester. This is an area I wish I would have prioritized more. You learn the basics about food; eat enough protein, carbs aren’t bad, eat breakfast, try to fuel yourself immediately post workout and practice, and drink 100 ounces of water per day.

There is so much information out there that isn’t discussed like how much to eat. What are macros? Meal timing isn’t necessary at all. What an actual serving size is, how to weigh and track what you’re eating.

What some don’t realize is that they “think” they are actually eating under 1,400 calories a day and don’t understand why they aren’t losing weight. You have them track their food for a week and they quickly realize the 1,400 calories they estimated were really 2,350. I was the worst about this! I didn’t think there was any way I was consuming more than 1,500 calories until I started tracking my food. I quickly realized, on a normal day, I was closer to around 2,200. Calories in versus calories out is how you maintain or lose weight. No magic pills, waist trainers, fit tea, detox drinks, juice cleanses, etc… It’s simple, people just make it more difficult than it is.

I want to help others in any way that I can. I don’t care what it is. I just want to make a difference and provide encouragement, positivity, change, and empowerment in people who need it or want it. I like to think that I have had so many different experiences that I can provide advice and life lessons on.

Softball players should know this one thing that I wish I had known earlier. Softball is what you do, it is not who you are. There is so much going on outside of the sport and one day you won’t have the game anymore. The lessons and characteristics you learn though, stay with you forever and help mold you into the woman you will become five, 10, 20 years down the road. Don’t take it so seriously all of the time. Do those things you want to do every once in awhile. It’s okay to take a break and rest, it’s okay to eat that cheeseburger here and there. Spend time with your friends, family, and teammates because that is what you will have when it is over

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