I am writing in to share a little back story about my life. I feel that it is very typical for female athletes to deal with this, but I have felt a lot of pain and nothing compares to going through this disorder and the affects that remain.
I am a 24 years old female working towards orthorexia recovery. Orthorexia is an obsessive eating disorder with the fixation on eating a “healthy” diet. This is similar to other eating disorders, but with the exception that I would only eat fruits and vegetables. I have played soccer since I was 3 years old and played all the way through college at the Division I level. It was during my junior/senior year that the pressure to succeed and make career decisions that I transferred my stress into my eating and workout habits. I started to fail my first course college with a “D” average. This was a stress inducing wakeup call. To relieve my stress, I would run/swim/lift/cycle, whatever I could physically do to not focus on school. I was focusing on something I could excel at, my body image and fitness level. I began to struggle with my weight through my senior year as the pressure of being on full scholarship- team captain, and having to make choices for my future began to unfold. I was determined to go play overseas and that all came crashing down, I started to lose my energy and muscle. I had lost all feeling in my left foot, from lack of muscle, and started falling often. I felt pathetic and helpless. This was heart breaking to me since I grew up playing a sport where I only used my feet. I lost over 3/4 of my long auburn hair due to malnutrition and it added to the depression. I began to notice people staring and talking as I would move past them outside. They all had looks of worry on their face, although I was too unhealthy to process the extent to which I had changed my body. Two weeks before my college graduation, I went to get a cardiogram with one of my closest friends. I had heart rate of 38 and weight of 65 pounds. The doctor told me my heart could stop at any time. He told me I needed to be checked into the hospital, but I refused. He stated it was either the hospital or risk death and asked what I was going to do. In my irrational state I replied, “Well I guess I am going to effing die,” and walked out. Four hours later my parents showed up to take me in unwillingly. If it had not have been from the support of my friends and family, I would have made the worst decision of my life. The support from my family and friends started to truly make me aware. I was only in the hospital a couple days before I decided that I was going to walk with my class and graduate on time. Against all doctor orders and my parents’ wishes, I demanded that I be released on terms that I would go in for daily bloodwork and vitals. I refused inpatient therapy. As my parents left to go back home my father looked me in the eyes and for the first time ever told me that he did not think I could do it. This was the hardest thing I have ever heard. At no point in your life do you want to hear someone you love tell you that you physically and mentally could not do something. Naturally, I was going to do everything in my power to prove him wrong. I was nowhere near being healthy, but I walked across that stage. I struggled every day to perform life functions for the following several months. It was not until I was sitting on the couch letting my life drift away in misery that I realized that I did not want to spend my days (or what was left) this way. I picked up a jar of peanut butter and just ate. I ate and ate and ate. I was slowly starting to gain weight and cognitive function, but still critically ill. People were scared, my friends and family, everyone. Dealing with the disorder and constantly battling with my mind I decided I needed to work towards a goal of becoming fit again. Everyone needs a goal to work towards, no matter how big or small. I was determined to gain back my competitive nature and the athleticism that I had lost. So I began to run. This was not the healthiest choice considering it played highly into my disorder but I continued to train. I lifted and ran and slowly started to refuel my body, every day until I finally gained enough energy to compete. I placed in every marathon, top 3 female and top in my age over the next year. I started to make the connection that the more energy and strength I had the better I could perform. Through this journey to health, the strength and endurance that I have acquired has allowed me to overcome many obstacles and a lot of mental battles. Physically, I have run all types of races from the Tuna Run 200, to a 40 mile trail, several marathons, and many other distances, as well as, completing many Spartan races and qualifying for the 2016 Spartan world championship. I recently maxed out in my weight training with PR’s of Squat: 225 pounds, Deadlift: 250 pounds, and Bench: 110 pounds. Noticing the results and seeing what you can do to your body is truly amazing, but you have to set your mind towards it. Food is more than just food - It is essential. It has been around 3 years now since dealing with the onset of my orthorexia and I still struggle every day, but feeling and understanding the difference between then and now is a constant reminder to not give in. This may be one of the toughest mental battles I have had to face, but I refuse to give up. You really do have to trust the process, especially the process of the body. The relationships and help from my family and friends around me serve a reminder me that every life is worth it. It may not always be easy, but results do happen and we all do it for a reason. Sometimes we just need to ask for help along the way.
1st Day in Hospital 2014
Rock and Roll Raleigh 2016: 3rd Female, 1st in Age Group