An Eating Disorder Does Not Define You - DOUBLESOLID

An Eating Disorder Does Not Define You

Even in an otherwise stellar career, Chrissie Wellington’s performance in her final Ironman World Championship race (2011) stands out. She entered the race only partly recovered from injuries due to a bike crash a few weeks before. With damaged pectoral and intercostal muscles, and a leg infection that had only cleared 2-3 days before the race, she overcame excruciating pain to finish nearly three minutes ahead of her nearest competitor.

How to Own an Eating Disorder

Was that race Wellington’s greatest ordeal? Maybe not. Before she even took up triathlon, she overcame anorexia and bulimia. She discusses the eating disorders openly in her memoir, A Life Without Limits (2012). And that makes her even more of an inspiration to me. It is possible to tell your mental health story without shame. Doublesolid's main mission is to empower everyone to talk about mental health. I believe through my own experience doing so helps others to understand what you’ve been through, but helps you to understand it as well. This truth is particularly applicable to eating disorders, in which self-deception plays a major role. Discussing it openly and honestly takes away some of its power and helps everyone connect on a much deeper level; really opening the doors to recovery.

In a brief video interview on the subject, Wellington pointed out that she developed disordered eating in the mistaken belief that she was exercising control over her body. But she ultimately came to realize that the illness, not she, was in control. It was only when she discovered that she needed to carefully fuel her body for training that she began to resume control of her eating behavior.

A Rockstar’s Story

Wellington’s story is similar to that of one our Doublesolid Rockstars — Ashley. I believe the similarity is due to their both being triathletes. Every eating disorder is highly individual, as is the treatment to overcome it. Ashley makes the same point in her Rockstar story. But while every case is unique and treatment can vary significantly from individual to individual, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) says unequivocally that compete recovery is possible.

Ashley and Christie Wellington are of the same gender, and they told their stories from similar ages and vocations. But don’t take that to mean you are exempt from eating disorders by being male or avoiding triathlon. According to the NIMH, “Eating disorders can affect people of all ages, racial/ethnic backgrounds, body weights, and genders. Although eating disorders often appear during the teen years or young adulthood, they may also develop during childhood or later in life (40 years and older).” A 2007 study of more than 9,000 people led researchers to project that in the US, 20 million females and 10 million males have a “clinically significant” eating disorder at some time in their lives.

An Illness, Not a Choice

And don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you or a loved one can just “snap out of it.” With mental health challenges there is no snapping out of anything. Mental health challenges, including eating disorders, are not choices we make.

Researchers have so far been unable to come up with a complete explanation for eating disorders, but they have discovered the risk factors. Every eating disorder emerges from a complicated mix of genetic, biological, behavioral, psychological, and social factors.

If you suspect you have an eating disorder, you may be able to get a better idea using a simple screening tool provided by the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). And if you suspect you or your loved one needs treatment, the NEDA provides a wealth of information that can get you started to find it. You don’t have to live with an eating disorder. With help and support, you — like Ashley, like Chrissie Wellington — can take your life back.

Share your story, become a Doublesolid Rockstar! Click HERE!

If you are in a mental health emergency, please call 911. For mental health resources click here.

If you are in a mental health emergency, please call 911. For mental health resources click here.

 Clothing for Mental Health Awareness


Photo: "Chrissie Wellington" by Mariano Kamp is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 . This photo was taken at the European Ironman Championship in 2008, one year after she turned professional.

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