I’m both an athlete and a therapist, so there’s no way I could have an eating disorder, right? Lol, sike. As an athlete, I used ~macro counting~ as my excuse to condone abnormal rigidity. As a therapist, I told myself that since I wasn’t restricting or purging, I didn’t have a diagnosable issue. Both, however, are irrelevant, because lo and behold, here I am sitting in the lobby of an outpatient eating disorder clinic.
Eating disorders emerge in so many ways. For me, it’s manifested in obsessive rigidity, making it nearly impossible to eat out with friends and leading to all-too-frequent binges once I’m alone. Food has become solely the fuel for my workouts— not the enjoyment of a good ass meal, not some bomb memories with my friends, and not the aftertaste of a burger and fries. It’s exhausting- physically and mentally. And it’s affected my performance, my sleep, and my relationships.
In addition to fearing basically every enjoyable food ever, when I look in the mirror, my brain literally distorts what I see. Yes, you read that correctly: I physically do not see the same person that others do. Body dysmorphia lies at the root of most of my dysfunctional thoughts and rigid behaviors, but luckily, my desire to perform under the barbell has saved me from destructive behaviors that are all-too-common in the eating disorder community, like restricting or purging. But importantly, at the end of the day, it shouldn’t matter. Recovery means I can look in the mirror, and regardless of whether my vision is accurate, it won’t change my self-worth.
I lied about my progress because I was tired of dealing with my setbacks. Or maybe I just wasn’t yet ready for help. Still, when I did speak, it was to an incredibly select few, as not to be held publicly accountable for change. But here’s the shockingly unshocking plot twist: Most people don’t hyper-focus on food! Most people don’t feel the need to plan every. single. bite. And if people in the CrossFit community tell you that these behaviors are normal, they’re in denial, too.
I’m sharing all of this to highlight a few points:
1. To demonstrate the diversity across eating disorders, because lemme tell you, they do not discriminate. To learn the prevalence of (and yet, the shame behind) eating disorders among athletes was astounding to me- some of the highest rates across all populations!
2. To remind athletes that while flexibly eating within macro goals can be beneficial to some, strictly adhering to these numbers is not normal. Still, abnormal should rarely, if ever, be conflated with shameful; we can work through this!
3. To promote the dialogue, especially across groups who “shouldn’t” be struggling, like fellow therapists or fellow athletes. It’s 2022, y’all, let’s get the conversation going.
4. To encourage everyone to check in with themselves.
5. To hold myself accountable for change… publicly.
6. To thank those who have shown me unwavering support and patience while I figured my shit out—but especially my weightlifting coach, who consistently believed in my potential to excel physical and mentally. J
Cheers to (day one of) recovery!