One of the biggest pressures of being a female is that idea of being perfect. It is known that “perfect” is a hardship of society, with all the different models, ads and “are you skinny enough challenge”. Beyoncé wrote a song called Pretty Hurts, and every word is spot on. She says “you can’t fix something that you can’t see, it’s the soul that needs a surgery” and I agree. We have put a spotlight on the pressures of women to act, look, speak and walk perfectly.
When I was growing up, I always was a tomboy, playing sports, and running around in the dirt with my older brothers. I never cared about weight, not even in high school. I never was a girl who was online much and so i didn’t have the “Instagram” bodies to compare myself too.
Over a year or so of college, I started to pay attention to what I ate and what I looked like.The only way I thought I could fix what I saw in the mirror was by eating less because I already worked out enough due to swimming.
In the beginning of 2015 I started to get completely obsessed with what I was eating. It started with an innocent desire to change what I was putting into my body and to just eat healthier, cleaner and be a better athlete. Quickly it started to grow from desire to an obsession.
I started to lose weight, I started to swim slower, and I started to become depressed. I had begun to make myself throw up and completely despise who I was, inside and out. At first I suppose I did not even realize what path I was taking myself on.
Until I was too far-gone and too far lost.
After a while and a few talks with my coaches, I started to figure out that there was a problem. I started to see our sports psychologist; which, in the moment, did not help me.
I was miserable. I started to eat even less than what I had before, and I started work out more than I was. I thought I was being healthy, and to some people I was eating healthfully. But those who knew me, who knew what I needed for my sport and the amount of calories I burned in a day, knew I was completely unhealthy.
After a few months of seeing the sports psychologist, I finally understood the dangers of what I was doing and how twisted my brain had become. I started to see that what I was seeing in the mirror maybe was not the truth. I started to understand that kale and spinach do not have enough calories for a division 1 swimmer, or for anyone really.
Even when I was helping others, like my family members, with trying to be on a healthy diet, I was fooling myself. I was believing that I could eat like the average person. I was convincing myself that swimmers do not need to eat extra and that I cannot afford to eat more calories, because I saw myself as … well…. fat.
How my sports psychologist explained it to me was basically the pressures of being a college athlete, and being a girl and all that I had previously been through over the past 10 years, without effectively dealing with, became too much for me. I allowed so many different emotions bottle up inside me for years and years, and when I was all by myself at college I finally found a way to deal with those problems. That was by not eating.
I have always wanted to be “perfect” in any way I could. Perfect student, athlete, swimmer, daughter, sister, friend etc. Even though nobody ever told me I was not enough- I started to see myself as less of a person. I started thinking everyone saw me as a failure, especially those who I was trying to impress the most. And I started to starve myself. I wanted somebody to notice that I was begging for help. And that is exactly what I was doing, begging for help.
It was easier for me to go to the extreme like that when I am far away from my family. Being all the way across the country, they cannot see what I go through. They never will understand my schedule, and the pressures of a division 1 athlete.. so it was just easier for me to pretend like nothing was wrong.
I wanted to be perfect. I wanted to prove to myself that I was good enough. That I would not fail, and that if I just kept on pushing, I would eventually be done and nobody would see the pain I caused myself. However, that was not the case and I lost all control of myself and of my eating.
Luckily, I accepted the help that I was being offered over the course of a few months, and I accepted the fact that I had issues. I knew I was not happy, but I knew it was deeper than what I even realized.
Being a female is hard enough as it is, and adding the pressures of being a division 1 athlete makes it almost nearly impossible. There are so many standards you have to live up to, and the ones that the NCAA and universities make are hard enough as it is. But then you start to make your own standards, your own expectations, and your own idea of what perfect means. You begin to set expectations for yourself that cause you to fail before you even start.
I was able to pull away from the pain, and I was able to get back on my feet. I made it out the other side and am better because of it.
If you or a friend have any eating disorders there are many avenues for help.