First and foremost, I would like to personally thank each and every one of you who attended my presentations at the United Soccer Coaches Convention in Philadelphia. The topics of my sessions were “Aiming for a Positive Body Image,” and, “Pressures of Athletics can Lead to Eating Disorders.”
Immediately following my second presentation, a woman came up to the stage, and loudly stated, “I just wanted to let you know. I wasn’t planning on coming, but last minute, my friend encouraged me to join her. I must say, this was the best presentation I have seen thus far. And, my only goal for next year is to have your presentations STANDING ROOM ONLY.”
I share this quote with you, not because I am gloating or patting myself on the back, but to make clear what this attendee actually meant by her complimentary words—and that is, the importance of the message.
I, wholeheartedly, believe in the message I am delivering, and am determined to continue representing the voice of the many athletes who have struggled to attain and maintain what they believed was the ideal body type… often to the detriment of their physical and mental health.
A common image problem for so many female student-athletes is the pressure to look like both the “feminine ideal” AND maintain the strong body that allows us to perform well in sports. When we are unsuccessful, we become extremely hard on ourselves and attempt many different strategies to reach it — exercise, diet, make-up, even surgery.
Now, consider the main causes of the development of eating disorders: genetics, personality, and multiple pressures. Add it all together, and it is a foregone conclusion that, given a perfect storm of circumstances, we go to the extreme. And once an obsession begins, it’s extremely difficult to stop.
I lived it. There is a quote that encapsulates the experience of life perfectly, “Our lives are defined by opportunities, even the ones we miss,” stated by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I love this quote. It reminds me that this is what story is all about. Hear me when I say how significant it is to not only be educated on this topic, but to learn from a personal story detailing the development of an eating disorder. My mission is to share as much information as I possibly can—because the more I share, the more you learn, and the more lives can be saved.
You, no matter who you are, have a powerful influence on others. Without treatment, up to 20% of people with serious eating disorders die. With treatment, that number falls to two to three percent 2-3%. Therefore, it is our obligation to be aware and attuned to warning signs, and understand proper protocol to give these victims the greatest opportunity to regain their health and happiness. They deserve it.
Bottom line: There is no possible way I would’ve been able to battle and overcome my eating disorder without immediate identification, without others taking the proper steps to get me help, and without the support of my family, friends, coaches, university, and all professionals involved in my treatments. It is too difficult to overcome an eating disorder on your own. It is a physically and psychologically debilitating disease. And, you have the power to help stop this epidemic.