7 years ago our Aquinas women’s team took 7th at the NAIA national meet—our highest finish ever at that point. It was an exciting time for the team, and I was thrilled to be a part of it.
However, the eating disorder part of me crept in as the day went on. How could we have finished if I had been “lighter?” If I had been the freshman version of myself who took 6th individually two years prior? How would things have ended up if I had never binged and gained weight? I didn’t like my body at the time, and felt a sense of disappointment and failure in myself. I didn’t feel that my experience was a full-blown eating disorder (especially since I wasn’t just “skin and bones” and because I was now bingeing more than restricting). I felt I had to take care of this all on my own because maybe it just “wasn’t that bad” and a “discipline” problem more than anything (hint: I was wrong).
I Thought I Had to “Fix” Myself
As I watched the All-Americans receive their awards that afternoon, I vowed to myself that I’d try to muster the “discipline” again with food and get back to the 6th place finish I had had my freshman year.
I ate very little at dinner that night when we all went out to eat. I calculated my calories while everyone bonded over the new Snapchat feature that had come out.
I chose to step away from the celebration with my teammates that night. I binged on raw vegetables dipped in peanut alone in my hotel room. I snuck to the hotel restaurant the next morning, terrified that someone would find me eating more food. I was miserable, but desperate to be more “successful” in running again and it seemed my body continued to fail me. The voice was always there, always ready to rear it’s ugly head even during what should have been a happy time, to tell me how it could have been better, how I was a failure, and how I had to “fix” everything.
Long Term Effects
One year later my kneecap broke, and I never made it back to nationals. The sacrifice had never been worth what I thought would be achievement later down the road. It just destroyed my physical and mental health.
I know now that many others experience similar struggles. I know that the mental battles I had were part of an eating disorder, and that any athlete at any body weight/shape/size can struggle in silence. Many others are running in silence, thinking that if they just did this or that with food, then everything would be “better.” The eating disorder robbed me of what could have been an even more exciting experience with my teammates, and the day is still tainted with what my mindset had been at the time.
I’m forever thankful for my team. I’m proud of what we accomplished. Looking back, we did absolutely everything we could. And even though I didn’t believe it then, I know now that I did everything I could at that time, too. My body is a little bruised/beaten up today, but I’m pretty much the same weight I was the day I was thinking about how I “should” lose weight again for nationals. It blows my mind to think how differently I felt about my body then, considering I appreciate and embrace my body so much now.