In March, after sustaining my fourth stress fracture in the past three years, I wrote that it was time to take a step back and re-evaluate – to stop “fighting the water.” I’ve fought like hell these past few years to try and keep myself healthy and running like I love to do. And while I was tired of fighting for many reasons, internally I knew I had one big fight left in me. Because there was one thing that I hadn’t tackled head on in a very long time: my eating disorder.
I’m not dense: I’ve known for a long time that I’m the living, walking example of RED-S (also known as “the female athlete triad.”) I’ve known that probably a huge reason that my bones keep breaking is because I have a 20-year history with anorexia. But I wanted to be that person that could right the ship on my own. I’d been in and out of treatment so many times in my life, I wasn’t ready to admit that, in my mid-30’s, I was STILL battling it. There’s an awful sense of shame in feeling helpless to fix things when you pride yourself on being self-sufficient and able to do hard things. There’s a paralysis that comes with the cognitive dissonance of KNOWING what you need to do, but continually falling short of that.
But the hardest things to fix are the things that we don’t want to admit to ourselves. And I finally admitted to myself that I couldn’t do it on my own.
So in April, I took a leave of absence from work and headed to Seattle, where I’ve spent the last three months at Opal Food & Body Wisdom, an eating disorder treatment facility.
I resisted more intensive treatment for so long because this isn’t my first rodeo – I was first diagnosed with anorexia nervosa at the age of 16. It started with a month-long hospitalization over Thanksgiving and Christmas in 1999 and spanned the rest of high school and college, with stints in various levels of treatment including a stay in a residential facility immediately post-college.
As a result of being in and out of treatment and being very visibly physically ill, I spent the vast majority of my youth as “the sick girl.” It’s a chapter in my life I haven’t talked about publicly, because it was an identity I was eager to shed. After my stay in residential treatment post-college, the disorder seemed to quiet. Finding myself in a solid state of recovery, I promised myself I’d move on. So I stopped talking about it. I went to law school, became an attorney, and buried the disorder in my past.
When I started racing and gaining attention for my athletic accomplishments, I didn’t talk about it during interviews. I didn’t mention it during my rise to dominance in obstacle racing. I didn’t tell interviewers who asked me about my athletic background that the reason I didn’t play sports in college was because I was too sick and weak to even walk up stairs, let alone play sports. I didn’t mention that my friends and family spent those years worried if I’d wake up in the morning. I didn’t want to “dwell in the past,” I told myself. In my mind, it was a chapter of my life that had passed, and one that maaaaaaybe I would speak about when the time was “right,” but I could never figure out when that would be. I was racing strong, running strong, feeling strong, and, in my mind, I no longer identified with the disorder.
The reality is while I no longer defined my world around my eating disorder identity, for all of those years, I hadn’t let go of it fully. I hung on to disordered thoughts and eating habits. The only difference now was that I had sport to fixate on instead. And I was at the top of the obstacle racing world. I was a “normal” BMI, I was muscular, and I was winning every race, so it was easy to minimize my disordered relationship with food. It was easy to compartmentalize the thoughts and say “hush, I’ll deal with you later,” or to think that there actually wasn’t a problem because I was performing so well. It was ok to have a different diet or eating patterns because “I was an athlete.” It was ok to compare my body to other female athletes on the start line and to covet their abs, because that’s just “what women do.” It was acceptable to dehydrate myself and starve myself before cover shoots was part of the gig. As long as I was competing and winning, “just managing” with food didn’t seem like that big of deal. I was getting away with it. So clearly, there was no problem.
Until there was.
While I had been able to fool myself, the body doesn’t forget so easily. It doesn’t forget the years of starvation and malnourishment. It doesn’t forget the magnitude of damage done to your growing bones: damage so bad, that I was diagnosed with osteopenia at age 16.
I was a ticking time bomb, which exploded with my first stress fracture (the case of the femurs!) in 2016. At the time I could write off one stress fracture as a fluke – it happens to all athletes. But the string of bone stress injuries that ensued are not so easy to write off.
Look – I’m not dumb. As I threw my hands in the air and proclaimed “I’m doing everything right” to avoid injury, I struggled with the growing internal self-flagellation for knowing that I wasn’t doing EVERYTHING I could. I could do all the PT exercises, I could do the slow return to run progression, I could take supplements, I could spend thousands of dollars on all the fancy recovery tools, but I knew one thing deep in my heart: there is no substitute for plentiful food and nourishment in order to prevent injuries.
Logically, I knew all of this, but MAKING myself do it proved much harder. I spent the past year telling myself I’d make changes.
I told myself that I’d rather be in a much larger body and competing than in a smaller body and broken standing on the sidelines.
That “looking the part” of an athlete doesn’t mean shit if you are too injured to even get to the start line.
I knew these things.
And at times, I thought I was succeeding in changing things.
But with the fourth stress fracture two weeks before Barkley this year, I hit bottom. With sport taken from me, I looked around at all the things that had propped up my “management” of the eating disorder, and realized my disorder was all I had left.
I had spent the past 20 years starving. Literally: not just physically, but emotionally. I was tired of fighting, and so fucking tired of being hungry.
When I called up my parents to tell them I was checking into treatment, I wasn’t prepared for the flood of emotions that came with this decision, this time with the motivation coming solely from myself. I’ve been able to do some REALLLY hard things in my life, so I felt a sense of shame that I couldn’t fix this on my own. I felt guilty for taking a leave of absence from work and forcing my co-workers to shoulder my workload. I felt guilty for telling my sponsors I was disappearing from racing and competing for awhile. I questioned whether I actually needed treatment given that (a) EVERYONE seems to have a fucked-up relationship with their food and body, and (b) I’d been “managing it” for so long.
The truth is that I’ve been “managing” a delusion: I’ve EXCELLED at white-knuckling my way through the world of eating disorders, and I probably could have done so for the rest of my life. But it would have been a miserable, hollow, existence. More than just sport, the disorder had taken a toll on every aspect of my life: my relationships, my ability to connect, and hell – even my ability to feel my feelings. I had a sense that there was more that could be had from life, and I needed to take a leap of faith to do it – one that required stepping out of my life for the short term in order to re-engage in it fully in the long term.
I went into treatment thinking that my main goal was to re-learn how to feed and nourish myself in order stem the constant bone injuries. While that was an important part, for sure, what I learned was that I really needed to give space to EVERYTHING ELSE other than the food. Engaging in the disorder had enabled me to tunnel vision my life to avoid dealing with other things that were bigger and scarier: fears over the loss of sport, the loss of relevancy, grief over past relationships, the need and want for connection to others but going about it in ways would never satisfy that need…the list goes on.
Sometimes what you get isn’t always what you thought you needed. And at Opal, I started learned everything beyond just how to feed myself. I learned how to re-establish trust with my hunger after 20 years of ignoring it, and how to re-establish trust with my body after 20 years of mistrusting it. I learned that I can connect to others without the veneer of accomplishments, achievements or admiration. I learned that it’s ok to want to compete and win as long as you have others means to fill you up when that doesn’t happen. I learned that it’s ok to be sad and grieve when I can’t engage in my sport how I’d like to, but that I can survive and thrive without it. And most importantly, I learned that it’s ok (and wonderful!) to feel my feelings.
While this post is about eating disorders, it’s also really not – it’s really about learning to live again. Because, as cliché as the saying is, eating disorders are never really about the food. But considering I have suffered from an eating disorder for over half of my life and considering I’m letting this out in the public now, I figured I might as well talk about a few things eating disorder-related that you will likely hear me speak and write about going forward:
There is no stereotypical eating disorder
I’m pausing to address this, because I know I know what you are all thinking: “BUT WHAT ABOUT THE POP-TARTS?” Shockingly, yes, even in the depths of my disorder, I ate the Pop-Tarts. And still do. My eating disorder doesn’t look like what many people would typically think of for a competitive athlete. As opposed to elimination of foods, my issues have always been eating “appropriate” amounts. I’ve been PETRIFIED of the feeling of fullness, and I couldn’t sit down to a full meal. I’ve spent the past twenty years of my life in a constant state of physical hunger and a constant mistrust of my body, which is an exhausting place to be (Note: this is particularly compounded by diet and wellness culture that has taught us to NOT trust our hunger cues, and to do whatever we can to not listen to them. Since when did having an appetite become a bad thing??)
Eating disorders come in all sizes, and health comes in all sizes
At Opal, I was surrounded by amazing people of all shapes and sizes, all struggling with disordered relationships with food. I connected with fellow clients who had similar restrictive behaviors as myself, but whose bodies looked entirely different. Opal follows the principles of “Health at Every Size” and intuitive eating (caveat: not early in one’s recovery, but as the ultimate goal). I’ll admit that I initially resisted both concepts, but over my time there, I learned to confront my own internalized oppression and judgments around food, weight, and body size. I finally understood that body size is not as simple as the “calories in, calories out” model diet culture has told us our entire lives. Someone isn’t in a larger body because they “lack willpower” or they are lazy. Fatness is not a simple “choice.” Fat shaming and fat phobia are real. Weight stigma and thin privilege (which I have, and benefit from) are real. I’ve become passionate about fighting weight stigma and speaking out about thin privilege and fat phobia because, regardless of what size of body you are in in, it hurts us all (I’m briefly touching on these here, but these concepts deserve a much more robust piece for a future date).
While I have faith I’ll get there, I’m not recovered
I want to believe in full recovery – in a life completely free of any eating disordered thoughts. There are many stories that tell me this is possible. I’m currently in the stage where I have the thoughts – I note the thoughts without judgment – but I don’t act on them. Oover time, the thoughts are getting quieter, but I know it’s not a quick fix. I’ve spent 20 years dealing with them – full recovery doesn’t happen in a few months. And while my time at Opal has ended, I’m well-aware that my journey has only just begun.
So why talk about this now? It’s a question I’ve asked myself, and one I’ve weighed heavily before writing about this. I could have easily stayed silent about what I’ve been doing the past few months. There’s value in protecting my recovery from the greater masses, as the peanut gallery can sometimes be exceptionally harsh.
But when I balance the factors, I’m confident this is stand I’m ready to take. For so long, I’ve prided myself on sharing my vulnerability in talking about injury and sport. But it’s been a selective vulnerability, and hiding my disorder has left me in a paralyzing state of cognitive dissonance, which has affected how I’ve been able to engage with the world. It’s led me to even feel MORE disconnected when I share selectively and don’t address the elephant that has been crowding my room for many years.
I’m aware that I’ve held judgments around the idea of “sharing my story.” I’m aware that phrase makes me cringe, as I’ve previously thought sharing could be construed as attention-seeking. And the last thing I’ve ever wanted was sympathy, or to proclaim that I’m somehow different. I’m not different: my story is ALL too common.
Thankfully, many brave women and men, both in and out of the athletic world, have stepped up to speak about their struggles (a special shout out to Hannah Fields, who unknowingly influenced me to seek treatment at Opal after she bravely spoke about her disorder last year). But the vast majority of these voices speak about their eating disorder struggles in the past – once they have “beaten it”, or once they have recovered.
No one likes to talk about it when they are face down in the arena.
While I’m not quite face down in the arena anymore, I am slowly picking myself up and dusting myself off. And I think it’s important that we have these conversations at all stages of the fight. Disorder and shame thrive in the darkness and silence, so I’m thrusting my disorder and shame into the light where it has no place left to hide.
I have a lot of unknowns going forwards: the unknown of where my body size is going to land when continue to nourish it well, the unknown of how people will relate to or receive this, and, the scariest thing to face – the unknown of whether I’ve damaged by body so badly from so many years of starvation that, even with proper nourishment, I may still not be able to stem the bone injuries. But, for the first time in many years, I feel wholly aligned: my head, my heart, and my soul. And that, to me, is freedom.
For those of you out there who have paved the path and gave me the hope and courage to tackle recovery again, thank you. For those of you out there currently struggling and wondering if there is more to life, I see you. I wondered the same thing. I believe it now. And I’m holding space for you.
So this is me: flawed, disordered, and dealing with a mental illness for the past 20 years. I’m not ashamed anymore. I’m not afraid anymore. And, most importantly, I’m not starving anymore.
Instead, I’m full of hope.
204 thoughts on “The Recovery I Needed”
Beautiful. Both this post and you. All of you.
You’re not alone, strong forever. 💪🏻💪🏻💪🏻💪🏻
Beautiful post. Your strength is admirable and you will inspire so many more women with this!
Thank you for sharing this. Sometimes we don’t realize the positive impact we make on others, your piece is sure to help many.
Thanks for sharing your feelings, you are a brave woman! 💪💕
Thanks for sharing!
Wow. What an open and honest post. I had a great deal of respect for your achievements as an athlete. I dare say I have more respect for you now as a person. I’m male, in my late 30’s but heck – when I grow up, I want to be just like Amelia Boone.
I can relate to this on so many levels. Thank you for sharing your story. You inspire me and I am so damn proud of you. You can do hard things. WE can do hard things. One day at a time. ❤️
Thank you for sharing your story with such passion and vulnerability! You are helping us all! Praying for your strength and perseverance! You are amazing! ❤️🙏🏻😭
Thank you for sharing. I have someone very close to me go through a similar situation and at a very young age. With support and treatment she’s a flourishing 20 year old now who has excepted who she is and how she looks and feels. May God bless you and see you through this.
I follow many OCR athletes. You were the first one. I was always in awe of your accomplishments and I started following you because I wanted to learn more about you or at least as much as you’d allow on your IG stories or your blog. I still follow you and I’m in awe more than ever. While it was your accomplishments that turn my attention to you, it is the powerful human that I think you are that keeps me in awe. I hope you continue to your road to recovery knowing how powerful and courageous you are. This all may sound cliche and an adulation talk coming from a stranger but it’s all real. Wishing you the best.
Thank you Amelia. Thank you for sharing your struggle and speaking your truth. The funny thing about social media is that you feel like you know someone you’ve never met in real life, so my heart aches for you like it would for any of my friends (and some have faced eating disorders as well). I want to thank you because you will help many people by sharing this. I am rooting for you and I look forward to reading more about your journey. Know that you have so many fans and supporters that you don’t see, but we are all here for you.
Powerful stuff Amelia. I’ve seen you at races and never said hello, but I’ve followed your journey from Spartan to Ultra. I’ve done the same. I sincerely hope that you recover in all aspects and get past this. Best of luck and I’ll be thinking of you.
Well wishes, hope and continued support to you Amelia!
Amelia, thank you for your honesty and transparency. I greatly appreciated the hyperlinks that you embedded in your blog, specifically weight being a social justice issue. Please know even when you are struggling, you provide encouragement and hope. I was a fan before this entry and my admiration of you continues to grow. I find it inspiring how you manage to juggle a demanding career and training. I felt encouraged after reading how you faced your fear about starting over. Now this… Thank you for sharing. Take care and keep fighting the good fight!
You are so fucking brave.
My 35th birthday cake was dessert after “challenging lunch day” when I was in treatment after 20 years of struggle, too. Getting help then – for the first time – was the most courageous thing I’ve ever done in my whole life; I can only imagine what it must have been like with sponsors, and a public “image”, and a “Queen of Pain” reputation in the mix, over and above the strength it takes just to admit we are not the 100% self-sufficient people we’ve convinced everyone, including ourselves, that we are.
I’m 46 now and can honestly say I’m in full recovery, and I promise you it is worth every struggle, every doubt, every bump in the road that may come. You have everything you need to say goodbye to Ana forever, and it’s the best breakup ever 😉
Huge respect and hugs to you from a fellow traveller.
Thank you for sharing your story! Wishing you peace and full recovery in time. 💕
Congratulations on coming this far! You have a bright future. God bless you on your journey, your strength and bravery are truly amazing!
I literally cried reading this. Thank you so much for sharing. Our stories have so many similarities. Numerous stress fractures while training, having a disordered relationship with food for years, and finally seeking recovery. Knowing other people are fighting the same fight is so comforting. The past few days have been low ones for me but this helped to much. Thank you thank you thank you ❤️
Brave and best.
Thank you so much for sharing this! I’ve long admired your presence in and out of the arena of sport and your sharing has just driven home even further that you’re one of my all-time favorite athletes. Thank you for being strong enough to post this and for giving voice to others who may be experiencing struggle in this and other arenas. It is so impactful to have someone we look up to share their own challenges and to show that everything isn’t perfect and that it’s okay to talk about it.
If anyone has shitty or self-centered comments from your sharing, please try to remember that it is an expression of what that person is struggling with in their own life, and has nothing to do with you. They don’t actually know you or have a right to pass judgement, they’re just using this as an outlet.
Thank you again for writing this! Posting this ranks right up there with many of your other amazing accomplishments!
This will speak to a lot of women in our trail running community. I understand your struggle and your words resonate with me. I understand avoiding answering questions like why you didn’t run in college. Hopefully your words inspire others to seek treatment. I have been “recovered” and weight restored for 20 years now. I hope you find your way.
I can not tell you how important this post was for me to read. Thank you for getting personal. Committing to treatment with all your heart is important. It’s hard, there are set backs and it’s important to keep going. But thank you, not going into detail, but I really needed to read this.
I’m a big fan of yours. Your words and newfound commitment is going to be huge for young women who struggle and find out who you are. Wishing you the best on a happy and fulfilled life.
Congratulations on being brave enough to battle and discuss this topic. I know you can do it and move forward.
Thank you! Many of us turn to other obsessions to avoid an addiction. You have the voice and the attention that comes with being at the top of your chosen sport. Thank you for using that voice to address something so important! Best to you in your recovery and all your future endeavors
This doesn’t diminish your incredibly bright star in the least, Amelia. Your sharing this will touch many and help many. Bravo!
You are so brave, Amanda, and I’m glad you are nourishing all the parts of your life that need it. This obviously speaks to so many people so you are helping others as well as yourself.
Thank you so much for sharing!
What a superstar
Thank you for sharing your journey! Your honesty is going to to impact many others. Hugs and keep up the fight!
I admired you before— for completely different reasons — and I admire you even more now. I hope you can show yourself the compassion that you have shown for others. Xo Amelia
Thank you for having the courage to share your testimony. There are others, myself included, who needed to be reminded of a lot of important things you brought to light. I wish you the utmost success in all your endeavors. God bless…
Thanks for sharing your story! Hugs from Wisconsin!
Courageous and open hearted sharing of your personal story – so many women in my distance running community struggling with eating disorders, body dysmorphism, orthorexia, dysfunctional relationships with their own bodies … good luck to you as you continue to heal.
Thank you for sharing your story. I’ve followed you since Barkley, and think you are bad ass, even more so now. Not sure if you have followed Olympian Jessie Diggins and her struggles but her blog is amazing. Take care and keep fighting. I hope you get to enjoy many more epic adventures.
I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you being open about this. There once was a time where I counted calories, which only led to distrust of my hunger cues. I’ve even turned off the activity tracker on my garmin so I can’t see “calories burned,” which was never accurate anyway.
I hope your story sends ripples into the running and endurance community. I’d like to open up more cookbooks, like Shalane and Elyse’s, and not see a caloric breakdown. We’re making it incredibly easy for athletes to fall victim to eating disorders.
Thank you for your sharing and honesty. I am a former D1 collegiate runner and have an honest question that may sound uncompassionate:
How much of eating disorders do you think derive from being in a performance-oriented, ego-centric world that is too self-focused? I ask this because my observation of myself, and the world of collegiate women’s athletics, is that whether or not one has a clinical eating disorder, there is a high likelihood of not truly understanding the role of privilege.
From my perspective, privilege goes beyond having people treat you well because you are thin. Privilege engenders an arrogance of food-refusal in a world where many people are legitimately starving to death from famine, corrupt government distribution of food, and lack of resources. And while I do not discount that eating disorders are a disease, I wonder if a more holistic treatment might be to examine one’s worldview in a developing-country treatment program that exposes this privilege. People in treatment can eat alongside a mother who is struggling to provide her growing child a bowl of rice. I realize this may sound uncompassionate, and I don’t mean it that way. But if we can be honest about the source of disease, maybe we can arrive at a pro-active solution.
Interesting question. I’ll be honest, I hadn’t considered the food privilege aspect of it. I do know that I always felt INCREDIBLY guilty when I would throw food away or hide it or not eat it. I did feel shame because I realized it was wasteful. But honestly, that shame alone wasn’t enough to get me to change my behaviors.
What I think *DOES* play into it is our extremely arbitrary beauty standards: who decided that it was desirable to be thin and “cut”? Who said fat was undesirable? Where did we learn that we needed to control our bodies? Honestly, it’s consumerism and corporations selling us products that taught us that. Tons of intersections of privilege, and I find it fascinating to explore.
Hi Sara- I am a parent of a young teen almost two years into recovery from anorexia with many more miles to go. I am also a psychotherapist. Your question struck a chord with me. I encourage you to become EDucated about eating disorders as it is the deadliest (10-20% lifetime mortality) psychiatric disorder and chances are you know someone who is or has been affected by this complex and primarily genetic disorder. It is NOT a disorder of privilege as it strikes all races, genders, sizes, athletes and non athletes and at all socioeconomic levels. It is a devastating illness to the sufferer and their friends and family. It is NOT a choice. Eating disorders have existed throughout history and are not caused by our current body and fat shaming and diet centric western culture but for those with the genetic predisposition these factors can be the kindling that helps to light the fire. Interestingly people who suffer from anorexia tend to have a similar set of characteristics such as being highly driven and perfectionist – attributes that are necessary to perform at elite levels in athletics, but also in intensive careers such as medicine where eating disorders occur at a high rate. Food privilege is not the cause of eating disorders but food is certainly the medicine.
Here’s one link to get you started
I’ve read that gut microbiome might also play a role.
Thank you for your informed, kind response to the ‘privileged’ comment, that seems unintentional but still inevitably shaming of people dealing with eating disorders.
I am a former anorexic. I grew up with it. I have gone through therapy, drugs and rehab.
And I must say, in hindsight, I do agree that there is a LARGE dose of selfish behavior in an anorexic person. We become so obsessed with our food intake, calorie consumption and weight loss that NOTHING ELSE counts. It is a constant thought and obsession, where what matters is US, and how we look. This is what an eating disorder is. It’s nice to pad words and make it sound some terrible power that overcomes people, but the reality is that there is a huge component that is just about being self-centered. IT sucks, and it destroys personal relationships and makes us liars. But it is, at the end of the day, a disease that you can “afford” to have if your life is otherwise good. If you are not worried of a medical condition, how to make a living, how to support your family and all.
Good luck Amelia. IT’s a long journey to recovery. You’ll be such a better person at the end of it. I know I was.
I don’t know what to say besides thank you for sharing and sending you so many good vibes. I know far too many friends and acquaintances and female runners with diagnosed eating disorders and be disordered eating patterns. It’s a journey and not like a cold that you just get over.
This completely hit home for me!!! I suffered and eating disorder for 10 years of my life and hid in shame, sought therapy in shame and told no one of my struggle. Today, I speak my truth in hopes of helping others and applaud you for speaking your truth now. Imagine how many you will inspire to seek help and stop hiding!!! This is not something to suffer in silence but with support.
And you are so right, it’s not about the food at all.
Healing vibes to you as you continue on this journey!!! Know you are supported and wished nothing but success, whatever form that takes for you!!
This could not have come at a better time…I needed to read this at this moment. I’ve recently began my recovery journey and it’s so much harder than I ever thought it would be. So thank you for sharing your story…it made me not feel so lost and alone. 💗💗
Amelia, I’m a fan who has followed you for some years as I too enjoy endurance events and the “torture” and training that come with it. I’m sure it takes great courage to write what you did and wondering what others would think… well, surely not alone… I think your stock value went up 10 fold… keep killing it and look fwd to one day meeting in person!
PS, I believe you would help many others and would also do great as a motivational speaker… charismatic, amazing story, very attractive, etc..
Best of luck in rest of the journey!
Thank you for sharing.
I am so grateful that you shared this part of your story. There are many women and young girls who look up to you and I know this will resonate with them as it does with me.
Thank you for your strength to open up and be fierce and fearless. I rooting for you in your recovery and for all women and men with ED.
I had it at 16-22.
What respect I have for you in speaking out and taking your life back, and living fully. I understand your struggle too well. So many of us do, I am sure.
This was beautifully written.
Wish you strength and peace.
I don’t know what else to say except thank you. THANK YOU.
As the wife of a recovering alcoholic, I have a small idea what of what you are going through with your recovery. Your willingness to share your struggle will positively affect more people than you could ever imagine. I wish you the best as you move through your recovery.
This is a gift to everyone who struggles one way or another and that means this is a gift to all of us. You are inspiring. Thank you for your honesty. Thank you for your leadership.
And that picture is kick ass no matter what people say.
Thank you so much for your honesty and vulnerability! I relate to your story so much and have been on a recovery journey for the last 4-5 years. I now, finally, feel like food and fitness doesn’t dominate my life anymore. Social media and current culture, unfortunately, only glamorize disordered eating these days with wellness culture. Many prayers and thoughts to your continued fight!
Thank you for giving voice to the battle that so many of us fight day after day. I stand in complete awe and admiration of you for your bravery, not only in seeking treatment and admitting it on such a public form, but for realizing that you needed to take a step back and take care of yourself. As someone who had to take a leave of absence from work to go to treatment, I understand the range of emotions that accompany the realization of the need to surrender to an unrelenting and senseless enemy. Thank you for your honesty and bravery, and know that you are not alone.
Thank you for sharing this journey…I played men’s volleyball in college many years ago and remember eating tons of food at the cafeteria before volleyball practice. One day I went into the bathroom stall before practice and forced myself to throw up. I continued to do it daily for almost a month. I knew I was sliding down a slippery slope, and thankfully walked back from the edge…you are brave and you have been a blessing to so many people in ways you may not even know….thank you.
Amelia, you are a beautiful mind, spirit, and body. I’m confident that in not caring about your size you will arrive at happy. And that’s a far better destination, one we’re all excited to see you arrive to.
You’ve talked about “eggs every day”, eating real more than eating fake/supplements, being anti diet culture, etc. Now truly enjoy all that yourself.
All the best to you. Always.
Brave, bold, beautiful and bountiful. Prayers for continued enlightenment and happiness.
I am traveling this journey with my daughter. You are a remarkable human in every way, but especially your courage, your goodness, and your wonderful sense of humor. I’ve heard that you don’t like pacers in races.
Ok. But in your life you have bravely opened yourself up to fine people who can run along by your side, help you get better and thrive, smile, and love. Your future is waiting! Hopefully you will help others follow, since you know the way through the dark forest. Because you know, others will trust you. Bravo.
Thank you for posting this- really well-written and such an incredible share. How little I knew you- all I saw was the superstar athlete accomplishing things I only dreamed of. You are that and so much more. You will get to the top again and please realize that you are reaching new highs in new domains, just by sharing your story.
Well done Amelia. Both a beautifully written, raw and honest piece, but also for the courage to talk about your disorder. I believe we all have disorders in some way. We see them as our failings, and no one wants to admit they fail. But discussing our struggles empowers others to deal with their struggles, sometimes in a way we could never have expected. So thank you.
Thank you for speaking up and sharing your story! There are so many women (and men) who will be inspired by where you have been and where you are going! I first battled anorexia at age 13, I’m 37 now and a mom of 4, but only in the past few years have I strated to share my journey with anorexia. It’s such a terrible mental illness that takes so much away from you, it steals your life right from under your feet and even as I am typing this, I get angry from all anorexia took from me!!!! I’ve been drawn to you from the second I got into OCR and found you on IG, and now I know why. 💗
Thank you for sharing Amelia, so powerful and so inspiring. I think on every level this speaks to everybody who reads this… We are led to believe various “truths” about food, diet and wellness by “other” commercialized sources. We trust others before trusting our own intuition and that is due to the fear. You have stepped out of this unfriendly ozone by looking and trusting within yourself… Others will benefit greatly after reading this… So to the next step, all the very best, enjoy getting stronger and healthier again and most importantly trusting your inner instinct and being proud to do so!
You are amazing and strong and give hope to so many. Thank you for sharing your story. I can relate .
You are an amazing person. ❤️❤️❤️
Powerful stuff, thank you for sharing. The issues in the post are too common, talking about it can help us all. Keep up the courage.
This is utter magic. Thank you for sharing something beyond personal.
One of my kids is dealing with ARFID and we’re learning a lot as we try to get them to deal with it. We’re not to the in patient program yet as the mental side of things is, as you know, very tricky.
Thank you for being brave and sharing your story. I’m going to share this with my kid and hopefully they will find some inspiration!
Over here in the “35 and now Recovered from a 15 year stint of Anorexia” club….I hear you, I love and applaud your bravery and vulnerability, and I’m sending huge love and hugs. Hang on for the hardest ride of your life but the most worthwhile…..and, I can assure you from personal experience , while it may be much physically harder to race an ultramarathon at a “healthy”/heavier weight….there is a lightness and joy in your soul on that journey that was never there before, and it bursts out of your skin like angel wings and carries you on the run…..
I wish there were athletes like you around when I was a teenage distance runner and heading down the AN rabbit hole; maybe, just maybe, we can change the culture of women’s running bodies one heartbreakingly honest story at a time. Sending love xo
I’m moved and proud of you sharing your journey. Everyday I seek to improve my mental wellness and your guts to tackle this on such a public stage is inspiring to the highest level.
I hope you get more serene positive days in your near future. I’ve learned I cannot ever win my fight for good but I sure get a good majority of positive days over the bad at this point. The harder I focus the better it always gets.
I’m really thankful for you existing in my life giving me the initial nudge to find the light out of my darkness. I can’t imagine the hundreds is not thousands of young women and men out there you might have just helped today. You’re an amazing woman inside and out.
This touched me deeply. I also have struggled and still do at times. I realize a lot of my trouble lies in my idea of what is “perfect” and my focus on perfection. I guess there really is no such thing as any one “perfect.” Thank you for sharing. Very inspiring and moving.
Brava, Amelia. In awe of your honesty and bravery. We all have crosses to bear. You’re not anywhere close to alone in bearing yours. You’ve got this – and I would be honored to be part of your crew; I’m sure everyone here would be.
Thank you for your courage and vulnerability. Rooting for you from the peanut gallery.
Freedom… to be aligned…heart, head and soul…❤
The most honest, moving and inspiring blog post I have ever read.
Thank you for sharing, was tearing up on the train reading this. You are helping so many people. Sending you love and strength. And f*** that guy who body shamed you.
Thank you for opening up about your vulnerability. You don’t have to hide anymore. I think by sharing your story, you’re also holding yourself accountable to proper nourishment. The peanut gallery can go to h*ll. This hope will only make you stronger!
I’m an ultra endurance athlete too who has been described as “the poster child for RED-S”, stress fractures, osteopenia, amenhorrea, the works. I moderate a Facebook support group for RED-S (mainly populated by British runners as that is where I’m based). So much of what you wrote resonated with me. Especially this bit:
“as opposed to elimination of foods, my issues have always been eating “appropriate” amounts. I’ve been PETRIFIED of the feeling of fullness, and I couldn’t sit down to a full meal. I’ve spent the past twenty years of my life in a constant state of physical hunger and a constant mistrust of my body, which is an exhausting place to be (Note: this is particularly compounded by diet and wellness culture that has taught us to NOT trust our hunger cues, and to do whatever we can to not listen to them. Since when did having an appetite become a bad thing??)”
Me too. I’ve never been technically underweight due to my training and muscle, but I’ve been weight suppressed all of my adult life. I spent my last birthday celebration in the restaurant toilets standing in front of the mirror saying “pig pig pig pig pig” at my reflection because I’d eaten an entire portion of seafood. I’d run 20 miles that morning.
There are a lot of us out there, and the more of us who are willing to speak openly about it the better. Athletes have our own set of issues around body image and the athletic identity and I don’t think we always suit standard models of treatment.
I’m so glad you are getting help and I wish you the very best for your future health and happiness. I reckon you’ve inspired a few others to seek help or to question their habits.
I am fairly certain Bumper is the best ‘medicine’ you could consume. Stay muddy and Make sure you get and give all the high fives that are out there.
“There’s a paralysis that comes with the cognitive dissonance of KNOWING what you need to do, but continually falling short of that.”
This spoke to me when I read your Twitter post and then here on the blog. Knowing what we need to do and then continuously falling short. This is my life.
In secret, I’ve seen psychologists for years trying to figure out why I can’t accomplish all that I want. I’ve been successful in business but everyday I wake up and fight major depression. My days are filled with me fighting my sadness and then trying to get myself motivated and end feeling like I’m a failure for not accomplishing all that I wanted.
I refused “treatment” aka medication for years because, in my mind, medication is failure. It’s me giving up and saying I can’t do it on my own. I’m not strong enough. So, every day I try to be strong enough and every day I fail. The reality is that I have a mental illness just like someone has diabetes and I’ve had this illness since I was a kid. My brain just doesn’t work they way it needs to. It’s taken 10 yrs, 20 different psychologists and this article for me to say that. Thank you for sharing. If you’re strong enough to accept your mental illness and get help, then so am I.
+1. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you for this. I am hoovering in that same “not ill, not fully recovered place” for years. Sport is also part of my life and the pressure that is put on people who have good results is enormous. Expectations to be the perfect role model for sport, fitness , mental health, eating, performing every time… everything, are really hard to cope with. I hope to make a final push to the health side. Please share your journey
Wow. Thank you and don’t stop believing in yourself. So much of this speaks to me and to say many others.
What a beautiful, moving, honest post. All the more moving because it comes from within the process. You haven’t tied it all up in a bow yet, or resolved everything. You are still in that arena. And as you say – it is so much more complex than not eating. I have never – thankfully – suffered with disordered eating. But it’s hard to be a person in the world, and a runner, and not to be aware of other people’s bodies and diets. I feel ashamed to tell you that I have often envied people who look like you – thin and athletic – and berated myself for not looking like you and lacking your discipline. My attitude is as disordered as yours was and needs as much attention. As I move into my late forties and my body changes I am beginning to realise how crucial it is that I start loving it – really loving it. Taking care of it and respecting it and feeding it and being kind to it. Not feeling it’s less because it’s not skinny or better because it’s not fat. It’s such a long road for all of us my love. Sending you love and strength and support and gratitude.
Thank You. There are so many of US. This gives me tremendous hope and courage. THANK YOU.
Thank you so much. You have no how many people you’re speaking to through this piece and how many you’ll inspire to seek help, too. Keep up the good fight. It’ll be so worth it.
Thank you for being so brave, Amelia!! I’ve always admired you and now — even more. ❤️ I struggled with anorexia and bulimia (alternately) for ten years, am now well recovered, and starting a (late) ultrarunning career. I will say that it’s interesting watching my body bulk a little as I train, but now I use food as fuel for my runs and overall health (vs. saying, “will this make me fat?”) and it is SO refreshing. It’s a feeling I’ve finally gotten used to, and now embrace. I know you can do this, too!!💕
Also, may I suggest something that has inspired me? I follow Mirna Valeria’s Facebook group Fat Girl Running — where women of all sizes, inspired by Mirna, post about their running journeys. It is a beautiful place of support and love, and a constant reminder for me that our sport is about so much more than PRs/top performance/body weight. It is about overcoming obstacles and not letting anything holding you back from doing what you love. I’m often in tears as I read these amazing women’s stories!
Keep going, Amelia — you’ve got this. I believe in you, and I support you. ❤️
Thank you for sharing your WHOLE story, as painful and scary as that must be. I have watched you in the OCR world for a number of years, as I have participated in some of the same events. You always amazed me, and now, even more so. Thank you for your bravery.
Thank you for your courage. Saying all of this out loud is so profound. I relate to your story but I am petrified of being hungry. The restrict-binge-restrict cycle is like a prison and comes with so much shame because, as you said, I know better. I’m in a better place now than I’ve been in a long time but it’s a daily battle that I never feel like I fully “win.” But I won’t give up.
🥰🥰🥰 thank you so much for sharing! Best wishes going forward, I truly hope you can find a new “norm” where you can truly feel happy and FULfilled 😉
You sharing of your vulnerability is amazing and courageous. I’ve been inspired by your many posts over the years-they have helped with my own recovery from sports injuries. Remember that you have many people out there that wish you well and that even though we don’t know you personally, we have gotten to know a little bit of you through your posts over the years. Although fans of your athletic career, I feel pretty confident in saying that there are a large number of us that value the glimpses of the inner you that you have shared (and what we have learned about ourselves from that) more than the athletic accomplishments you have achieved.
Hugs and all the best to you. Keep at it—we are proud of you!
you. are. amazing.
You have been a hero of mine since I started running obstacle course races, back when you were dominating the scene. And you’re a hero of mine now more than ever. You have so much support from the community, keep on keeping on!
Wish you all the best, with a prompt and un-destructive nail into full recovery!!
26 have passed for me, exactly like that, “eating Tarts” and strong in sports, but always conscious that I was hiding, or dealing with, an elephant… and I am so tired of all this! I feel so guilty for my family’s unhappiness and worry, for the relationships’ disruptions, and even for the harshness I sometimes have to my own daughters (because I am starving, I know, but still do not get to eat!)
And all that because of my disorder – which feels because of me.
Courage is not what you do that comes easily but what still move forward and do when you’re scared out of your mind. To not just write this piece but to press the send button and allow the universe to see is an expression of such courage–and vulnerability and hope.
I am not an ulta-runner but I am a runner and follow ultra running and I’ve always, always, always wondered at all these podcasts and Instagram and blog posts about this elephant in the room. Which is how could disordered eating NOT be frequently part and parcel of such a massive calorie burning sport? If not perhaps the driver of why many people get into them? Or stay in them? Or get addicted to them once they start?
If at some point you are moved to, I would be very interested in hearing your thoughts and where you are at with exercise and anorexia and food. If going out and running twenty miles one morning for training “allows” you for example half a pop tart then what happens when that’s taken away by injury? Are you allowed to then eat nothing without the calorie burn?
In recovering from an eating disorder where does exercise fit back in–if it does–and how and when?
Hoping that the days and weeks and months moving forward eventually find you in a better, more peaceful place. I cannot imagine how what you are doing will not help to get you there.
It’s a good question, and one that I’ve struggled with for a long time. In treatment, I spent a lot of time examining my relationship with sport and movement, and the motivations. There’s no one universal answer, and it’s different for each person. I’ve learned that my relationship with running as movement is quite healthy, but there are other forms of movement/exercise that I may do with more disordered motivations, so I am mindful of that. For some, movement is not part of their eating disorder. For others, they fall on the “avoidant” end of the continuum (with compulsivity on one end and avoidance on the other).
For many years, eating disorder treatment thought sport needed to be stopped for recovery, but thoughts on that are changing. Programs like Opal, like the Victory Program at McCallum Place, like GOALS at Walden, are leading the charge in re-examining this.
Anything we can do in life can become disordered – the key is to be curious about your intentions.
So many people pulling for you!! Such bravery. Such incredible bravery.
Wow! This has touched and inspired me on so many levels. Thank you for writing about this, thank you for your honesty and candour. I hope and pray that you can unwind any damage that you may have done, and look forward to seeing Barkley highlights with you running.
You have given me inspiration to fight my own demons (after 61 years of wishing them away).
You are amazing! Thank you.
Thank you for sharing. Looking forward to seeing what you can do and where you go from here.
Thank you for sharing your story. You are amazing and inspiring. I’ve had an eating disorder all my life and currently doing everything I can to recover from it. Work is exhausting but there is freedom at the end. Sending you best wishes!
I have always admired you Amelia and my admiration continues to swell after I read your story today. You are one of the most courageous people I can think of. I am proud to know that someone in your position of influence would put themselves out there and be vulnerable so that maybe your story will help others. and certainly, your story will help others to understand the magnitude of eating disorders. I absolutely am afflicted with issues surrounding my body and at 42 years old, I am still figuring it out. So I get it. I appreciate you so much and wish I could just hug you! You are such a great role model to me and so many others. Ill never forget how kind you are to others at races I’ve been at where I’ve been fortunate to say hi to you. You are just an amazing human. Stay strong and know you are not alone!! I and so many others are here for you and rooting for you. ❤
You’re going to love eating! Always remember that you have a beautiful and courageous soul.
So many of us out there… freedom really is facing it head on and putting it out there. You’ll find so many people truly love you for you… not what you do, look like, not your accomplishments… they love you because you’re raw, real, honest, resilient.. and most importantly, wanting to share to helps others. Keep going!
Thank you for sharing – you are an inspiration! I am excited to follow your journey as it is only going one direction. You’ve got this!
Thank you for your bravery, your honesty and your willingness to share your journey. I was so touched by your story and as a big fan of yours I’m glad to hear you are taking good, deep, holistic care of yourself. Be well and continue to heal. You have big fans in Portland!
You are a true warrior, Amelia! Thank you for sharing this!
Keep fighting the good fight. #juniorrangerrocks
You’re going to help so many people by sharing this. Thank you for your courage to be vulnerable. I’m going to put on a workshop for a. few high school teams on Body Image for Runners in Larimer & Boulder counties this year. If you’re interested in going to one and sharing a bit of your story, my bf Joshua Stevens can give you my contact info.
Thanks for sharing your important story. You’re a great writer. Best wishes for a full and healthy life. Hopefully with fantastic running adventures in your future.
What a great story! And as a parent of a young girl who started down the road of ED while trying to be the perfect varsity high school runner- this is very inspiring. You are touching so many lives! Thank you for being brave and honest and truthful!
Thank you for sharing your vulnerability with us and caring so much! This is courage and gives hopes for many towards a shared future where all can accept and face our true selves.
Take good care, we will be cheering you on!
I have such respect for you! I know everyone has their story but I feel mine is very similar to yours. Thank you so much for sharing 🙌
A generous and courageous share. You’re incredible.
I know that you mean for this post to address more than just an eating disorder—and certainly more than just *your* eating disorder—but I do wonder what more specifically you continued (and continue) to find problematic about your eating habits even after your athletic accomplishments. Did you encounter emotional resistance to eating the way you thought you should have been eating? Did you find yourself conflicted about what you should have been eating in the first place (e.g. that what helped you perform athletically may not be in other respects healthy)? Did what you think was how you should have been eating turn out only in retrospect (after your injuries) to be wrongheaded?
I ask because I think it’s especially easy for athletes to rationalize their disorder as performance enhancement, and a more detailed account of the experience of someone who broke through to the other side can help others (myself?) self-diagnose and do the same.
Yes! As a former ultra runner, who’s eating disorder came way before the racing, all I can say is that your honesty and raw emotions are awesome and they are the next step in healing. You’ve got this and there is an even better, brighter world ahead of you! You are a strong whole woman and you are worthy of nourishing yourself. Imagine what your body can do for you when you really take care of it!
amazing and brave!
Thanks for sharing your story Amelia! Knowing your struggles, I believe, will help me with my own struggles. Your story will help so many people and will in turn help you as well! I had the pleasure of meeting you at the Palmerton Super Spartan Race in 2017. You were so kind, posing with me in a photo. I cherish that moment! Wherever your life journey takes you, stay true to yourself, love yourself and know that you are and will continue to be an inspiration!!
Wow – the esteem in which I held you (now clearly, for the wrong reasons) has increased a thousand fold. I will be one of the many out here silently following your progress and only wanting for you, whatever you wish for yourself.
You are an inspiration in running for me. I am a 30 something endurance athlete. I got my start in obstacle races. I run 100 mile races and love it. I am also an attorney. When you ran Barkley, I thought for sure you’d be the first female to finish. I jealously followed you, hoping that mantle would be taken by someone like you (like me too). And, I have struggled with anorexia since I was 11. I was forced to start eating because of running. I wanted to be faster but had no energy without food. I continue struggling with body image and food. Your ability to share so clearly what your struggle has been and to candidly detail your path is just as inspiring as your physical accomplishments. Thank you for who you are, for what you have shared, and for your effort on your own behalf to get better.
Thank you for your courage and contribution to taking the stigma out of mental illness and eating disorders.
And dudes be careful what you say when commenting on someone’s body.
Probably one of the single most-powerful things I’ve ever read on the internet. Thank you for deciding to share your journey in this way, it is inspirational. Very best wishes.
Thank you for your honesty. This post was very inspiring to me and I took a lot from it. I hope one day I can recover and have a healthy relationship with my body and food. Your post has given me encouragement and hope that it is possible. It won’t happen in a day but I believe healing will happen. I know I’m not alone and I too felt the embarrassment of still dealing with this in my late twenties. I pray that you will continue to recover and establish a healthy relationship with your body and mind. You are brave my friend!
Bravo Amanda. Stay strong.
I mean “Amelia”
This must have been so difficult to write. I bet you started it 100 times, or 1000. Congratulations. And welcome to the freedom of being honest and transparent. I bet you’ll love it.
Thank you for sharing this, I can only imagine the courage it took. My story is a mirror of yours and while I no longer look like the sick kid I was as a teen, I am approaching 34 next week with little change in my head, still struggling with this damn thing and feeling so darn alone hiding it all. From the comments here is seems there are many of us out there in the same boat. Thank you for pushing me and others I’m sure to at least think about taking that step and how life could be on the other side. Thank you x
Thank you. Full recovery is absolutely available and you are worthy. Enjoy the liberation and genuine connection with others you’ll experience as you continue honestly & authentically sharing your story…really really good stuff.
So proud of you Amelia. You are amazing no matter how you feel. Let Kelly and I know if we can do anything for you.
Beautiful. Inside and out. Thank you for telling your story, it helps us all to realize we are not alone. Just keep going, one day at a time, and know that tomorrow the sun will rise again. 💜
It sounded like you borrowed the words of my twin sister to write this. She’s struggled for 20+ years (while also running an Olympic trials qualifying marathon time). She manages it daily and views it as a perpetual state of recovering vs recovered. She has also said for years it is not about food which is widely misunderstood. What I am in awe of is the resilience of the human body. Feed your mind and soul during this recovery period. I admire your courageous decision to share this. Cheering you on!
Amelia, thank you for opening up and posting this story from your heart. I’m an old guy that has just recently realized what is really important in life and how important it is to truly listen to others and not be judgemental. Thank you for being you and thank you for shining some light on eating disorders! <3
You’re a rock star. The road is long, but you are never alone. Best wishes always
Hi Amelia. Thinking of you. Wishing you lots of blessings. This is one big step into recovery. You are a winner ♥️♥️♥️
What a brave move! Thank you. Many people are going to benefit from you being so open. This is by no means my area of deep knowledge, but it did strike me to ask, Are you familiar with Dotsie Bausch? I know she went down a pretty severe road with anorexia and then went on to become an Olympic medal winner (cycling), in a healthy way. I know she has talked a lot about the ability to heal herself (and how miraculous that has been!). For what it’s worth, thought to put that out there. Very best of healing to you!
Thanks for sharing your story and struggle. You are very brave to open up like this publicly. I wish you peace and strength in the future!
Thank you for your honesty. It is such a difficult disorder and one that many people do not understand. You can look ok on the outside but literally be dying on the inside. You have always been one of my favorite runners to follow and this makes you that much more special. Best of luck to you on your journey.
Thank you for sharing your story!
I am so so so proud of your courage to seek help again on your own and start with treatment this year.
I am a survivor and had my ED in college while running at a D1 school. I often thought “why am I here”, “how did I get here”, “am I even capable of taking care of myself anymore?” or better yet, “I have failed” because I was in therapy.
when I finally let go of shame and guilt for my ED I started to see how lucky I was still have my life and how going to a D1 school that cared about my mental health and paid for all of my therapy and nutrition appointments truly saved my life. I am now 6 years in full recovery 🙂
Never doubt the recovery path you are on. always have an appetite for hope.
I know you will get through this. I am rooting for you so loudly.
Thank you so much for your bravery and honesty. I have no doubt that your wisdom and journey will encourage others going through this, especially endurance athletes. Lord knows a lot of us struggle with how we are “supposed” to look. I appreciate you!
Thank you so much for sharing. I feel a bit less alone. It’s been about 20 years for me as well. I started when I was about 12, had really bad years and then some years on and off. After I had kids I learned how to love myself enough to feed it properly. My disordered thinking is not gone though unfortunately and that’s tough. One thing though that I’m dealing with now is that I can no longer run. I got into running about 10 years ago, but it led to many stress fractures including double calcanealitis. Eventually I got an x-ray for knee issues which led to a MRI that revealed I have stage IV arthritis in my knees. I never was an ultra runner, the most I ever ran in one week was about 28 miles (and that’s when I was training for a half). It’s been a bit heartbreaking for me to know that I’m not supposed to run or jump anymore. I have kids and I can’t play tag with them or play hopscotch. I imagine the stress fractures are related to the starving myself, but the arthritis I’m not sure since it’s an inflammatory issue. Either way it stinks, and a bit mad at myself for doing what I did without realizing these consequences. I feel you, and I hope you heal fully. <3
I’m excited to see what “Amelia 2.0” will look like. I suspect better than before. It would appear from the comments that whether you are racing or struggling with your illness, you are positively impacting others…inspiring them to be better. I know you have helped me on both fronts. You get to define “Amelia 2.0” and no one else. Can’t wait to see the new and improved version. Maybe racing, maybe not. Doesn’t matter. Just take care of yourself.
Your words and influence run deep. Thanks for being open and honest through all this! Your impact will undoubtedly reach far- in a very good way 💕 take care Amelia!
This sentence struck hard:
“No one likes to talk about it when they are face down in the arena.”
I’m trying to pull myself out of a relapse right now, and it’s true that I don’t like to talk about it, but I think that erasing the stigma is important, so I try.
Nobody wants to hear it. It’s much easier to cheer someone on in hindsight than while they’re actually going through it, I guess.
This sentence struck hard:
“No one likes to talk about it when they are face down in the arena.”
I’m trying to pull myself out of a relapse right now, and it’s true that I don’t like to talk about it, but I think that erasing the stigma is important, so I try.
Nobody wants to hear it. It’s much easier to cheer someone on in hindsight than while they’re actually going through it, I guess.
Wow. It takes a lot of courage and commitment to open yourself like you did! Kudos to you! You have inspired many with your successes in sport, and I hope you inspire just as many or more with your ongoing success in recovering from the mental illness that is an eating disorder. Best wishes for a full recovery, even if you never reach the pinnacle again in sports. Being the best person you can be is much better. God bless!
Thank you so much for these intense, wonderfully expressed perspectives and insights. Some of the very best I’ve read on the topic in 40 years. I remember first having runner friends struggling with eating disorders in the late 70s and there’s still great challenges in our culture 40 years later. Thankfully, there’s been growth among athletes, coaches, families, etc., but the collective journey continues!
I wish joy and good health for you, and hope that many will benefit from reading your words.
I’ve been following your career (both legal and racing) since you left UW, and this post doesn’t surprise me – gutsy, honest, full throttle. It’s extremely generous of you to share this, and I’m sure this will help many many others. Good luck – UWLS is very proud to call you an alum.
Thank you Professor Boxx!!
Excellent, honest, heart-felt post.
Whether intended or not, your truth urges us all to take stock of ourselves, our health, and what we all have buried within.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, for your courage and strength to discuss this. And for inspiring me to do more for myself than lace up and go running.
Best wishes for your continued struggle.
Wow. This was so inspiring and courageous. Thank you so much for sharing your journey and I can’t wait to see what your new “life” has to offer you.
I can’t thank you enough for sharing this story. My teen daughter began struggling with anorexia last fall. She’s a runner, an athlete, an “I can fix it myself” person. I intend to share this with her, because she so often thinks she’s the only one to struggle with this. Thank you for your honesty.
What a great post. The comment from the “dude” about your body resonated with me. I ran a popular 10k a few years ago and found myself running next to an old running buddy for a few miles. We were former competitors and shared a few miles together before breaking apart and racing our own races.
A photo showed up on the race’s Facebook page a few days later and I was thrilled to get a picture of me and my friend racing each other… until I saw the comments. Some of his friends were cracking jokes at me being “fat” and not being able to hang with him (I beat him by a few minutes). He quickly pointed out that we were friends, tagged me in the photo and the friends eventually deleted their comments, but not before I saw them.
I am a guy, but this sent me into the weirdest body-hating phase that I still have not gotten over. I run like 70 mpw and feel like I am pretty fit, but those comments did some damage that I cannot seem to unwind. People need to be careful.
Stay away from social media. It’s a fake world where everyone is beautiful and successful, every family is perfect, and no one has any problems whatsoever. It’s designed to make you feel inadequate.
Thanks for being brave and sharing your story here, Amelia! I’ve always looked up to you as a professional and athlete, and now for speaking out and sharing your story, too. It means a lot. You are so strong and will succeed in this journey, wherever your heart tells you to land.
Thank you for sharing! Your courage is inspirational. The stigma of all mental illness just got a blow with your openness. You are helping so many people, keep it up.
Owning your truth is so hard. Way to go!
Amelia, Thank you for using your fame as a platform to fuel not only your own healing but also the healing of others. Reading this entry, being just a click away on “Lets-run” is going to spread like wildfire– and not just among those who enjoy reading about running. It will spread like wildfire, among the minds of those contemplating their own journey towards healing. Reading this inspires me to start my own road to recovery. Thank you for this!
Thank you for sharing. I would never have guessed that you have this problem. Good luck. On a side note, you write very well. I look forward to any articles or books you write in the future.
Thank you for sharing
Keep the fight forever. Awesome you🌹❤️
I admire your honesty and courage. Wishing you health and happiness as you continue your journey.
Thank you. I have followed you from the very beginning of your OCR Career. I would go very early to my own race if I knew you were there to get a glimpse of you at the starting and finish line. Perhaps the real reason the universe put me in your path was for me to read this. 48 years old and still not recovered. Thank you for the hope.
Best of luck to you in your recovery. I hope you are successful. Thanks for sharing. I was going to show this to my 14 year old granddaughter who seems to have some of the symptoms, but I’ll read it to her instead and leave out the four letter words.
I have heard you speak on podcasts many times before and have always admired your determination, but now I also see that being so determined was both a blessing and a curse for you.
You’ll always be a warrior!!
Thanks so much for this, I’m sure it was hard. Remember you are speaking to (and for) many of us who admire you for who you are, which has always been obviously much more than these problems or your athletic accomplishments.
I myself am going through recovery for drug addiction. I’ve connected so much with your thoughts and feelings on the battle of a disorder that doesn’t seem to make any sense as to who you are as a person. I’ve allowed a select few to be privy about my drug addiction and I usually get the same response, “I had no idea!” or “Are you sure? You don’t seem like a drug addict!” all because I’m the person who is viewed as “tough” and “has it together.” If people only really knew what I deal with alone and in my mind each and every day. Getting up every day and devoting yourself to recovery and growth is a feat in and of itself. I love my support system, but they don’t understand how exhausting it is to fight this day in and day out. Your words give me hope and that feeling that I’m not alone. That’s so damn important in recovery. I am not alone. I remind myself each day that there are others out there fighting the same fight and they’re winning. If they can win, so can I. That glimmer of hope is sometimes all I have to hang onto. I’ll take it. I will keep you and your words in my thoughts as I progress in my recovery. Thank you so much for your bravery. I admire your willingness to put it all out there. Even if you’ve been battling this for years and was ashamed to talk about it until now, you’ve still made a huge step. You are progressing. You are growing. If that’s not what life is about, then I don’t know what is.
You’re Amazing, Courageous, Beautiful, Strong, and Inspiring. Keep doing your thing!!!
What a journey. You’ve been so brave to really get to the bottom of your mind and try to get rid of this. I am not familiar with eating disorders, What surprised me is how many other aspects you learned, while you were at the Clinic, that are related to the “issue” . That makes me think. Thanks for sharing.
I’m so uplifted by your bravery Amelia. I’ve admired your accomplishments for a while now and I have to admit I’ve had a few moments of envy (that’s putting it mildly) of your fitness level. You are so much more than a kick ass athlete. With a ten year old daughter, I’ve never said a harsh comment about my body within her hearing but boy do I feel it. I just want to set a good example of acceptance for her and your journey is going to go a long way in keeping it real. Especially in light of social media and the influence it casts. You can still be kick ass and struggle. Much respect!
I don’t know if you will ever read this post but I know the universe will. To discuss this in public took both courage and wisdom. In my recovery journey I have learned that what’s missing from most of our lives is the gift of mystery. You had mentioned the fear of the unknown toward the end of your post and what I have learned that although it’s sometimes scary as shit, the magic of mystery is beyond awesome. As an older athlete, I still am working through the loss of my “younger body” but I know that’s just part of another grieving process. I’ve always admired your athletic feats and they have inspired me, but this is the real authentic shit. Recovery is recovering the person we were meant to be, which does take work,can be frightening and at times, incredibly tough but it’s exciting as hell. Hmm, sounds like you have a bit of experience there. You take all of us with you on your journey.
Thank you for this… been working towards recovery for the last 5 years and sometimes I don’t even think I want it anymore. It helps so much to hear about your whole journey, ups and downs included, and that while you still struggle, you have hope. Such a good reminder that there really is no timeline for how long this takes. <3
I saw a girl of about 16 at a kiosk in a mall once, in a city 90 miles from home, who was obviously anorexic. I went home and researched the Internet, with an eye toward mineral deficiencies being a part of it, and found a significant amount of info on it. I went back to the mall with a few weeks later, but she was no longer working there.
Zinc, is one of the things that came up. A deficiency of it can diminish appetite. There are others, too. Zinc is in a complex balance with other trace minerals, that makes it hard to just supplement with zinc, without possibly altering the right amounts of other minerals, such as copper, if memory serves.
There is also the issue of genetic faults, such as in the algorithm for assimilation. For instance, person A and person B can eat the same diet, even a complete, well-balanced, adequate nutrition in-all-ways diet, and one of the two be healthy and the other have a problem due to a genetic fault. The May 2003 I think it was, though possibly 2008, issue of Discover has an article titled, “Vitamin Cure”, which is where I first heard about such a thing.
It’s very possible, too, that antibiotic use wipes out gut microbiome which is involved in producing substances the body needs, which may be related to appetite.
There are two DVDs I would like to highly recommend, for their value in understanding the world. One is “Programming of Life”, which can be found available on line, the other is “The Mystery of Our Declining Genes”. The first shows life could not have arisen by chance. The second shows time is not the hero of the evolutionary plot, as genomes are being torn down by cosmic, background, and solar radiation and other things, FAR faster than any genome could have ‘arisen’ by chance, if that were even possible. However, its been my experience there are only three groups of people who are able to watch these DVDs, based on the experience of giving them to people. The first is Christians. The second is people who are suffering. The third is that very small group of people who are seeking truth.
Great story and writing; thanks for sharing, thank you for being you!
You rock! You are beautiful, not because of the way you look or don’t look, because of the way you are.
It gives me comfort when people come out with their struggles. I, and I am sure many others, don’t feel so damn alone and isolated.
I have been struggling with anorexia and bulimia for 18 years (I’m 32 now) and running gave me also a focus to “get better and stronger”, but as injuries popped out I understood that I actually never recovered. No yoga, PT, accupuncture, supplement can replace the needs that the body has. And our bodies need love, care, nourishment through food.
You are a fighter for holding on for so long, and I am sure you’re gonna kick the ED’s ass for good!!!
It takes time, it takes patience, but is NOT impossible!
What helped me are: music that I love, to sing out loud, to paint, to do anything creative with my hands, to take photos, traveling and hanging out with the people I love, and the StyleLikeU YouTube channel 😉
You are very brave! All the best to you as you go forward! Rooting for you!
Hey Amelia. You’re getting a lot of support here, but no harm in adding one more voice. You’re very brave for speaking out. It takes exactly that kind of bravery to start a conversation about things that feel… shameful? Or embarassing? But I think your efforts here will reach more people than you know. I’d add that seeing people overcome is helpful for folks in any kind of crisis, be it an eating disorder or addiction or just a crisis of circumstance. Keep at it. Be brave. Much love.
nd harmful eating on the athletes.
Thanks for your bravery and honesty. Be blessed and good luck
Thanks for the courage you showed in sharing your story. May we all find a path to wholeness and peace.
Full disclosure: I have always been a woman of slender build and average weight. I have never had an eating disorder of any kind. I raised three daughters, and I am old enough now, Amelia, to be your mother.
I have serious concerns about the Healthy at Every Size concept. Chronic over-consumption of calories, a sedentary lifestyle result, for most people, obesity and severe damage to health and that may shortened lifespan and will certainly shorten “health-span.”
Most are well aware of the health risks: increased risk of cardiovascular disease; stroke; type II diabetes, which comes with its own set of health risks; orthopedic complications, gastrointestinal problems, increased incidence of some types of cancer, Alzheimer’s. I doubt that anyone who has known someone who had a foot or leg amputated as the result of a diabetic ulcer would say that they are ‘healthy.’
You say that you are still in recovery, and I truly hope that you do fully recover some day, and attain a healthy attitude towards food and your body. Until that time, I counsel you to avoid proclaiming what is wrong or unhealthy about our culture and how we collectively view food. Until you are fully well, you cannot see your own biases.
Hi Carolyn. Thanks for the comment and sharing your views and concerns. Honestly, I had many of the same when I first heard of HAES.
First of all, it’s “Health at Every Size”, not “Healthy at Every Size.” I say this because it makes a difference – HAES is about a person’s ability to pursue health (if they choose), not a commentary on a person’s health status. Here’s a good summary of the principles: https://www.sizediversityandhealth.org/images/uploaded/ASDAH%20HAES%20Principles.pdf
I take issue with your statement, however, that I’m not allowed to speak my views about HAES because I’m in recovery from an eating disorder. We ALL have biases. Just like staunch followers of keto/paleo/plant-biased diets are allowed to have opinions, so am I.
I do believe in education, though, and I do believe in healthy skepticism. I took the time to learn, to read, and to discuss HAES. I think that’s all we can ever ask of anyone – to engage, to question, and to learn.
Many disagree with HAES, and that’s their prerogative. But please don’t tell me I’m not allowed to have an opinion because of my eating disorder.
If I can provide any further resources, please let me know. Many are hyperlinked in my blog.
I’m not old enough to be your mother but I am a mother of a 12 year old daughter and I encourage her to see you as this amazing role model for men and women of all ages, during your recovery process and after. I know there will be an after! Look at all of these comments of support! Keep doing your thing, Amelia!
I am so happy you are taking care of you and you inspire so so many on a professional level and I had no idea of your story. You are incredible, talented, smart, strong and determined. You will beat this! The sharing is so raw and emotional and you brought me to tears. Just know you are NEVER alone and reach out for help! xoooo Big huge hugs. You take care of you and don’t worry what others think/judge. I never knew any of your history and simply look at you as determined inspirational and one hell of an athlete. xo
Thank you for bringing your disorder and struggle into the light, and robbing it of some of its power over you. My daughter has recently made some statements about her body which I want to be sensitive to, to help point her to health and wholeness as she grows and runs. Your story challenges me on a deeper level to be proactive with her. So thank you – please know that”sharing your story” has already helped a young girl you’ll probably never meet.
Thank you for sharing this, and the prose that does not let us escape your honesty, bravery and struggle. This has touched me quite deeply, and I will keep you in my thoughts. Karen B. shared this with the faculty; I am glad that she did. Lea
I saw your article in Runner’s World and read your blog. If you’ve been able to achieve and perform all that you have while under-nourishing your body, imagine how much you will be able to accomplish when your body is completely nourished?! Brava for facing your demons. You will come out on top of this.
Thank you. I literally had to leave my desk at work because I keep crying.
I’m a decade younger than you. I’m a bit more to the bulimic side (never been hospitalized and was overweight, not under, as a kid), but as I’ve gotten into running more and more I’ve been struggling with fueling. I’m only at the half marathon right now and my pace has stagnated, and part of the reason I’ve been holding back is because I struggle so much with eating more to fuel. That said I have DREAMS and you’ve been a huge inspiration for my ultra goals, and I’m gonna try and recover so I can get them.
I’m face-down in the muck, and I believe in you! The conversation matters, and so does the fight ❤️
Perhaps your most important post, to date.
Congrats on the decision… it’s a battle that’s just begun.
I read your post a week ago and then came back… because it dawned on me that I might have an eating disorder too… one that I’ve just become aware of in the last year or so.
I’m now looking into it more deeply. Thank you… you may have saved my life.
hi Amelia –
wow. i’m super thankful i found you on Rich Roll’s Twitter page. I’ve had diagnosed anorexia/eating issues for about 10 years now, but I had disordered body thoughts forever, as a super young kid, always.
I’ve been in a lot of different treatment programs, but I’ve never been able to give up the control and go into anything ‘intensive’ or ‘residential’. I can’t imagine having ‘no movement’ and being forced to eat more than I want to (even though I have major control issues and ‘binge’ all the time on my own, mostly on breadddd, then try and run to burn it off, which makes me feel awful). On days when I don’t eat ‘too much’, I run a smaller amount and under eat. I’m very aware of it all, yet cling to it.
I authentically love movement, hiking, running, backpacking, nature. So it really sucks that running has become a ‘purge’ for me, even though I’m super super slow and just go distance. I’ve had the luck to never have been hospitalized. I really relate to the bone loss. I have severe osteoporosis, it’s not even o-penia, it’s really -4.5 T scores and such. I continue running, though I still have no period. luckily have only smaller fractures and only had on big break, the pubus ramus bone, pubic bone. I’m currently in therapy regularly, which I’ve never done, so that’s a plus. It makes no sense to me, because I’m not severely underweight. I see tons of young female runners who are super, super slim and wish i had their bodies. which in my mind means being smaller, though I’m told by friends and fam that I am underweight and small. I can’t shake the desire. I can’t see it any other way. I also live in Seattle, I’ve been to Opal and one of my therapists works there. But I’ve never done any of their ‘programs’.
Not sure why I’m writing, I guess to thank you for sharing, it makes me feel less alone and less dumb and really resonated. Stay strong and rock on –
All of my pain and suffering with addiction and alcoholism lead me to the one point you acknowledged: I cannot do this alone. That is the cornerstone of my recovery and one I have to continue to remember. That’s why after 30 years I still go to meetings, to stay connected and to remember.
You talked about avoiding feelings and I’ve learned that’s the number one reason I chose to escape the present moment by using whatever I can. Because to be in the present moment means I have to feel all of those uncomfortable, painful, awful feelings. I unconsciously responded by doing everything I could to not be present. Of course once I stopped using, all that stuff came up but this time I had the support and the willingness to face them and move through them which is why today, more so than not, I am comfortable in my own skin.
The other thing you acknowledge is mental illness. For years I said I’m smart, I’m not on meds, what mental illness? And then I went without meetings for seven years and found out that without the fellowship and the gratitude that comes from being engaged in recovery, I grow dark. I was guided back to full-time recovery and have experienced a daily reprieve to this day.
Thank you for affirming what addiction is really all about, not the substance, but the underlying conditions. Be well.
You continue to amaze. Amazing athlete, amazing writer and amazingly brave. But most of all you are an amazing person. We are all striving to be better humans but most of us don’t have to do it into he public eye like you. I pray for you to have good mental and physical health so that you have decades to enjoy doing the things you love with the people you love even more.
As a mother of a one year old girl, and having suffered myself of a similar problem for many many many years since the age of 7, I’ll keep your words at heart and let my girl read this post when she’ll grow up. And I’ll tell her about a Queen of Courage. Thank you so much Amelia, the warmest hug from Italy.
This is intensely fierce – though you are fierce at your sport, you are even more courageous to share this. What an intensely, authentically written piece. I am very inspired by this, as many others are as well. I remember seeing photos of you awhile back and wishing one day I could have a body similar to yours; in a sense idealizing your look, something not typical of my personality. I had always been athletic, but after a series of traumatic incidences and unfortunate events, I was heavier than I had ever been and really understanding what it felt like to be perpetually uncomfortable in my own skin. That, along with having a partner who was undergoing fasting and serious elimination diets, I felt shame surrounding food, my body, and my image that was really disconcerting. How was this weight actually changing my psyche and how I loved myself? This is not only a powerful post for those struggling with eating disorders, but for every person struggling with body image issues. We are in a strange culture where shame is constantly knocking at our doors, in whatever form. How can we break down those cultural influences? Let us all strive to be as transparent and honest as you are, it is truly so meaningful to the world.
Thank you so much for this. I have someone close to me going through treatment and stories like this give me hope for her and her future. Please keep your eyes in the great future you will have. Even though I don’t know you, I will be in your corner rooting you on.
Thank you for sharing this, Amelia!
I’ve always been a fan of yours, now I’m an absolute die hard fan!!! So brave of you to speak about your personal experience, it helps myself and others immensely, as none of us want to feel alone in our battles. Much love and support to you!