There was no way I could have developed an eating disorder. After all, I was a tenacious female athlete.
I didn’t care about being the skinniest player on my soccer team. And I knew I was not the most skilled player either. So I wanted to be the hardest working player on my soccer team. And I was.
Until I started losing weight.
I struggled with anxiety throughout high school and middle school. When I decided to take an interest in what I put into my body, my anxiety latched onto this as a false sense of feeling in control.
By the time I was a senior in high school, my coaches and doctors didn’t want me to participate in sports anymore because I was becoming too frail and weak. Looking back now, I realize they had my best interest in their hearts and their minds. I needed to get strong enough if I wanted to play sports again. It was not a punishment.
However at the time, it felt like a life sentence and like everyone was against me. My identity was a female athlete, and I was damn proud of it. Who am I now that I can’t play sports?
To any athletes struggling with an eating disorder or anything else, please know that there are so many more aspects to you other than being an athlete and having an eating disorder.
Please know that not being an athlete does not mean you are a bad person. And being an athlete with an eating disorder does not mean you are a double bad person. You did nothing wrong.
In fact, when I was in treatment for my eating disorder and not participating in athletics, I knew I wanted to get into a profession that helped people. At the time, I was told that I had to help myself first.
Yes, this was true. But, even though I was struggling, I did not know that I still had something to offer to others. And so do you.
To any athletes struggling right now:
Please know that not participating in athletics does not mean you are weak.
You can still be, and you still are strong. For instance, you will gain strength when you ask for help.
And you will gain even more strength when you sit through that discomfort. When your thoughts are screaming at you and that alarm is going off in your brain saying you need to restrict, binge, purge, or do whatever coping mechanism your eating disorder wants you to do in order to be okay. It’s lying to you, just like it always is. Riding through that discomfort will give you strength while weakening the screaming alarms.
I remember at one point when I was struggling, I was listening to the Recovery Warriors podcast (an oldie but goodie, episode with Jenni Schaefer, author of Life Without Ed). She and Jessica talk about how skydiving is analogous to recovering. Jenni shares her experience skydiving and relates how scary it is to recovering from an eating disorder.
I have no desire to ever jump out of a plane, but I completely understand the analogy. Jumping out of a plane is just as scary as doing the work necessary to recover from an eating disorder.
You will gain the most strength when you walk through your fears and develop faith.
Being a Recovery Warrior
I had tears rushing down my face whenever I ate another fear food and sat with the discomfort. Because to me, it was that scary. It was jumping out of a plane. And that experience helped make me the strong, recovery warrior that I am today.
Being a recovery warrior gave me the freedom back to enjoy playing sports and exercising again. But I am so much more than someone who is recovered from an eating disorder. Although I am a strength and conditioning coach with a graduate degree in exercise science, I am also so much more than those certificates.
I am a loving daughter, sister, and a sister-in-law. A dedicated Aunt to my wonderful niece. Also I am an avid reader and learner, a reliable friend, a fan of lyrical hip hop, a fine artist, a decent chef, a competitive Mario Kart-er, and the best damn dog mom in the world.
To any athletes struggling right now, you are not your eating disorder.