Thursday, February 27, 2014

Eating Disorders and Athletes

It's eating disorder awareness week. I think most people think of eating disorders as something that affects the fashion industry. It's also a huge problem in sports.

I started gymnastics young and by 9 years old I was being told by coaches to diet. I was in a sport of perfection and judging, and I wanted to win and be accepted. I am also extremely competitive. I wanted to be the best at sport, at being skinny, at schoolwork, etc. Once I got off track in the eating category I spent years not knowing what "normal" eating was. I skipped dinner to lose weight, cut out calories, convinced everyone I hated bread, etc. The crazy thing was, most people had no clue and just went along with everything I did. I didn't look like a waif most of the time. When I lost weight I got more compliments and sometimes improved in sports. I also got injured more. I lived in a world where calories ruled my thoughts and I didn't have time (or energy) to think about much else. It's a horrible escape, but it somehow went on for way too many years.

Eight years ago I finally admitted I was tired (exhausted actually) of having an eating disorder rule my life and went to get help. It took me over a year to actually pick up that phone and ask for help, even though I really wanted to. It was all I knew and I was scared of letting go. In the beginning I went to therapy every week. I dreaded it the entire day before. But then I realized we were sorting things out and making sense of my crazy life. I can honestly tell you I never believed I would be able to eat normal, but I knew I had to try. 

I am happy to say that food no longer has control over me. I learned that eating disorders really don't have anything to do with food at all, and a whole lot to do with everything else in life and learning how to deal with it. I learned to eat intuitively. I learned to fuel myself for workouts and not workout just so I thought it was ok to eat. I stopped comparing myself to everyone else. I learned what my triggers were and how to avoid them. I got rid of my scale. To this day I have no clue what I weigh, and really - does it matter? No. 

If you struggle with an eating disorder I urge you to take steps to get healthy. If you don't know who to contact for help email me. Life is way too short to let food dictate your feelings and self worth. Plus, I can promise you life is way more fulfilling and fun when you let go of it.