I became a figure skater when I was nine years old. I had skated on ponds, taken group lessons, and attended open skating sessions for years, and finally I began private lessons. As my parents cringed from the cost of the expensive sport, I realized that there was nothing that could make me happier than being on the ice. Before skating, I ate like any other young kid. I loved my sweets, and my pasta. Salads? Eh, not so much.

I am competitive by nature. There was something about the blasting of my program music, the breeze on my face, and the intensity that I felt when I moved through the motions on the ice. It was like nothing I had ever experienced. 

Gilly Cole

I began to skate more and more; my intensity and love for the sport increasing each time I stepped into the rink. So, as I rose through the levels, the sport became a lifestyle. After school each day, I'd drive straight to the rink. After my session on the ice, I worked with a trainer several times a week. I was an eleven year old being exposed to a world of hard work, intense competition, and pressure. 

Gilly Cole

As I began to take the sport more seriously, I started to take notice of what my body looked like. For the first time, I would look at the other skaters in my club and judge myself based on the differences in our looks. I wanted to be skinnier, but at the same time, I wanted to be stronger. I wanted to look like a figure skater. I realized I could get there by changing my diet. 

When you think of a figure skater and what he or she looks like, this is probably what comes to mind: tiny, thin, powerful legs, and yet somehow still delicate. In skating, the emphasis on looking the part is extreme; the tight, short, and revealing dresses require a certain body.

I looked at the girls around me and wanted to look more like them. I started to make small changes in my diet, and became more aware of what I was putting into my body (now salad obsessed). Checking the label for calories, sugar, and fat became a regular occurrence. Because skating is a grueling sport, my body suffered after years of tough falls and the emotional stress of competition. 

Gilly Cole

With a battered body and an unhealthy body image growing, I was clearly struggling. Despite creating lifelong friendships and having some of the best experiences in my life thus far, I made the decision to let the sport go during my freshman year because of its many repercussions.

Being a competitive figure skater had left me with a different idea about my body and how it should look. Skating influenced me enough to limit what I ate even after I stopped. I wanted to maintain the body that went along with skating: lean and strong, with an emphasis on staying stick thin.

I focused on the amount of calories per meal and how to work them off after, more so than before. Of course I indulged every now and then, but not without guilt.

Today, a few years away from the sport, I still remain aware of what I put in my body and strive to maintain the body that I had from skating, but I also recognize the importance of treating my body kindly. Being constantly conscious of what you eat can be exhausting, so instead of forcing myself to count calories and turn away from delicious treats, I simply try to eat clean and healthy, but remind myself that beauty comes in all forms, not just in the body of a figure skater.