Something I’ve always stated in my talks and workshops is that eating disorders thrive in secrecy. This rang true for me during my eating disorder and through recovery. If someone cannot talk about their eating disorder or share how they’re feeling, then how can they get better?
Since I graduated college in 2008, I’ve really started to see a revolution around the visibility of negative body image issues, mental health issues, disordered eating, and eating disorders in athletes. I’ve heard stories about athletes like Suzy Favor Hamilton, Rachael Steil, and Megan Flanagan and Minttu Hukka of Strong Runner Chicks sharing on a national level about their struggles and encouraging others. I applaud those efforts and the support system behind them.
While watching the trailer for former competitive figure skater Nancy Kerrigan’s upcoming documentary, “Why Don’t You Lose 5 Pounds?” about athletes’ eating disorders, I found myself thinking about the what-ifs when I was an athlete. What if I was educated about eating disorders? What if I was on a team where it was normal to talk about eating disorders? What if?
Eating disorders are a common, serious, and often-missed problem in athletes. I believe that this documentary will shed light on the mental illness that affects so many in sports, while concussions and stress fractures currently dominate most health conversations. I also hope that it can be used as a tool for teams and professionals in the field to create more awareness and education.
For me now, I don’t think in the past and my experience. I focus forward with the present and future. I can’t change my experience and what I went through. Having an eating disorder doesn’t define someone. It hasn’t stopped me from living my life and doing education and awareness on this topic. As I speak to teams and learn more in recovery, I am thankful for the support systems that I know of now.
Once again, I encourage athletes, teams, trainers and coaches to utilize the resources that NEDA provides, including its Coach & Athletic Trainer Toolkit. Utilize the professionals on campus who can speak to this issue and bring light to it. Attend trainings to gain wisdom if you don’t know about eating disorders. And if you don’t know, ask. We are all in this together.
As a D1 athlete, Megan Marshall experienced mental health issues (depression, anxiety, ED). She currently works at Penn State University, while educating students on body image & bystander intervention on campus. She is the proud co-facilitator of The F.L.Y. Movement workshops. You can inquire about the workshops or check it out here.