An Inside Look at Eating Disorders from an NCAA Division 1 Athlete

I remember when people would scream at me, just eat it. Why can’t you just eat and be normal Maura? It’s only food, if you don’t eat you could die. 

Little did they know what was really going on in my mind.

It is a miracle what God has done in my life and with all my heart I want you to experience the same freedom! The fact that I can drink a glass of orange juice, eat a hamburger, ice cream before bed, not weigh myself, order a drink at Starbucks and drink the whole thing, put whip cream on a mocha, milk in my cereal, eat popcorn at a movie, go days without running and the list is a mile long is the hand of the Father!

“To live is to suffer, to survive is to find meaning in the suffering. If there is a purpose in life at all, there must be a purpose in suffering. But no man can tell another what this purpose is, each must find out for himself, and must accept the responsibility that his answer prescribes. If he succeeds he will continue to grow in spite of all indignities.”

Last week a student-athlete emailed me the following. Her words offer great insight into  what it’s like to have an eating disorder, especially for people who have never had one. Please read and educate yourself. Knowledge is power!

Maura, I just had to write to you. This past week I started a new round of clinicals for nursing school. I’m in psych/mental health nursing now and we are at our local hospital. Each week one student has their clinical on the Eating Disorder Unit. This week happened to be my week. I don’t think excited is the correct word to use but I was looking forward to it. I had no idea what to expect or what I would be doing. It is an 8 bed facility. While there I went to group therapy, stretching, meals, and just talked with the girls. 

Words cannot describe it. When my shift was over I drove home and just cried. My heart ached for these women and men. One of the girls has anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months to live, another is just 13 years old. Hearing them talk about their anxieties during therapy just made me realize how difficult their struggle, your struggle, must be/have been. 

They plan their next day’s meal and while doing so they are riddled with fear, anxiety, guilt, and anger. One girl spoke of how she knew she needed to eat but just couldn’t because she felt that if she allowed herself to enjoy food she would enjoy it too much. I cannot imagine what that must be like. I have had very bad anxiety during different times in my life, but I still can’t come close to understanding how they must feel. I can only pray that they will find hope, healing, and peace. Sitting there in therapy I thought of you, of what you are doing, and of how God is working through you to help others.

This season out team is struggling with eating and food. We have several girls on the team who have eating disorders. The entire team has become more food conscious and I can feel the effects, the pressure, it is having on us. One of the girls has gained some weight and is starting to run again. Everyone has noticed and is happy for her, but I can see now that it is so much more than gaining the weight back. Please, keep our team in your prayers.

I don’t think an hour goes by when I don’t think about those girls at the hospital or those girls on our team, or food in general. It’s a subtle thing; it creeps into your mind and into your consciousness. A teammate that I am especially close with and I were talking; we realized how in a matter of a couple of months we were thinking about food, and eating, and portions very often and didn’t even notice it. I realized that almost 50-60% of my day I was thinking about food, and what I should eat, and if I should eat, and how much I should eat.

Maura, thank you. Thank you for answering God’s call. Thank you for being brave, for taking a leap of faith. You are changing countless lives, and hearts, and minds. May God continually bless MIHI and you on your journey through recovery and on your journey to discovering all that God has planned for you. 

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