Running Towards Self-Acceptance

Jan 5, 2018

Kelly Teeselink was 9 when she started to struggle with a negative body image."I remember nearly everything negative ever said about my body. I have a little box in my memory of those comments. I remember feeling that it was really important for me to be a certain way, look a certain way, be a certain weight."

When Teeselink received a "Barbie" workout tape as a gift she remembers thinking she would work out until she was skinny. She's found diary entries from 4th or 5th grade lamenting how unfair it was that some people were skinny when it was so hard for her.

Then at the age of 14, Teeselink made herself throw up for the first time. "I remember thinking it wasn’t that bad." She doesn't remember how long it was before she did it again, but the pattern continued through college.

She didn't recognize it as an eating disorder. "This may be the first time I've ever said that I was bulimic." And even when she got caught and went to counseling, she couldn't shake the mindset that being skinny was more important than stopping.

During one of her more concerted efforts to exercise and watch what she ate, Teeselink says she started a "Couch to 5k" program. That summer she ran a her first race in her hometown of Algona with a friend.

"It was hot, there was no shade on the route, it was terrible. But, I thought I'm not going to walk unless my friend asks to walk, and she didn't so we ran the whole thing."

Teeselink says crossing the finish line was a turning point. "What my body accomplished was a whole new thing for me. I never really felt proud of my body for what it could do, it was always about what it looked like. Crossing that finish line, I had never felt that way before."

She started running longer races, including a half marathons. Soon she was up to marathons. When she discovered trail running, she started running ultra marathons. But her thinking still took a while to transform. "I was still counting calories. There was still an element of thinking about my weight."

When she started coaching Girls on the Run, something finally clicked. The curriculum about negative self talk helped Teeselink recognize it for what it was. "It's not all rainbows in my head now, but I've learned to combat it with positive self talk."

She says when those old, negative thoughts creep back, she reminds herself of what her body has accomplished over the past year. "You can run 100 miles, who cares if your arms aren’t toned right now? It’s really freeing to have a goal that’s not how your body looks, but how you feel."