“I’m Scared I’ll Lose My Scholarship” | Eating Disorders in College Athletes

“I used to restrict and now I binge. I don’t know how to stop.”

“I need to lose weight again.”

“How do I stop bingeing?”

“This is so important. I could lose my scholarship.”

These pleas for help sound eerily similar to my own back in college. I had been struggling with bingeing after years of restriction. Fortunately, my situation didn’t rise to the level of a lost scholarship despite my slower times. My mom had had the foresight to ask my future coach, before I chose my college, if my scholarship would remain even if I got injured or, in her words (as described in Running in Silence), “hit by a bus.” She, and I, had no idea what would eventually befall me. But she knew it was ideal to choose a school that would not make their faith in my value depend on running times.

Still, fully immersed in the eating disorder in college, I believed that the outcome of the races proved my worth and value as an athlete. I had depended on running fast so much for my happiness. I didn’t have the weight of a possible lost scholarship looming over my head, but when my success was not as apparent, I felt I had lost my identity.

Scholarship Struggles

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer for those who have an athletic scholarship on the line. When you struggle with an eating disorder, you need time to allow your mind and body to recover—just as you would with a physical injury.

It is a real possibility that the scholarship may be lost. Your sport may need to be given up for a period of time. Fully participating again healthy and happy may need to wait until the eating disorder is dealt with. The consequences of not choosing recovery are dire. Refusing treatment could lead to a loss such as never being able to run again, permanent physical damage to the body, or, most shocking of all, loss of life for those who are untreated or seek treatment too late.

My mom, who ventured through this journey with me, stresses the point: “This is what I had to make clear to Rachael’s father in order to convince him to get on board. We needed to quit talking about her discipline and educate ourselves much further in order to be able to support her. We had to let go of the importance of the continued running success of our daughter. Her health and life were more important than any accolades.”

Reflections

I remember how I tried to forge through my eating disorder and “fix” what I determined was my “discipline and food problem.” I had one year of success, followed by four years of bingeing, drastic up and down performances, injuries, and a belief that I was nothing without my control of food and running.

I kept fighting my body until my body fought back.

The constant pressure I put on myself to stay at my lowest weight, or get back to that weight while bingeing, caused more bingeing, injuries, and physical and emotional fatigue. My continual engagement in eating disorder behaviors only set me back further.

Professional Help

If you find yourself in a similar place, I encourage you to reach out to close family members or friends about what you’re going through. And, perhaps with their help, find an eating disorder therapist and eating disorder dietitian in your area. You can reach out to the NEDA helpline here: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/help-support/contact-helpline. Treatment centers that I’ve found work specifically with athletes with eating disorders are included here: www.runninginsilence.org/resources.

I wish I would have known to do any of this at all. And even beyond that, I wish I would have known that it would be okay to grieve.

Give yourself time to grieve the loss of what you thought your athletic experience was going to be. But know that your path towards recovery may get you back to the sport you love sooner (and healthier mentally and physically) than if you never reached out for help. No amount of forcing your body to reach a certain size will get you back to competing better or keeping a scholarship. For most athletes like me, it only kept me in the throes of an eating disorder—and without joy and freedom—longer.

(Visited 154 times, 1 visits today)