The Need for Prevention: Ali’s Story

Ali B.

“There are several things I wish adults had not said to me during that time. I can’t believe that amount of adults that told me how great it was that I was working hard to get back into “soccer” shape… I honestly don’t remember anyone asking if I was losing the weight in a healthy way or being worried about my weight loss because I was an athlete and it fit with the sport I played.”

We recently asked our community why eating disorder prevention is important, especially for athletes. Ali shared her story. 

My struggle with weight started back in the 8th grade when I gained almost 80 pounds after receiving a full leg cast, getting mono, and not being able to play soccer. I was home-schooled for three months and once I returned to school I realized that the weight gain had changed things.

My 8th and 9th-grade years were filled with a lot of name-calling (fat, the fat girl) and bullying. I was dropped from my high-level soccer team for being too slow and unable to keep up with the other girls from the extra weight I had gained.

Sophomore year of high school I was asked to go to prom at the end of the year and I decided that I was going to lose all of the weight to fit in the perfect dress that I found that was 2 sizes too small. I started going to the gym every day after soccer practice and paying attention to what I ate by counting calories and eating more fruits and veggies. I was able to lose enough weight to fit in the dress and received so many compliments from adults about how I “looked amazing” and that I “must’ve worked really hard to look better”.

After prom, I continued to work out after soccer practice and then I started working out in the mornings as well. I was running several miles (usually about 4 or 5) in the morning going to soccer practice and then running 5 miles at night. There were several days during my junior year of high school that I wouldn’t eat at all. However, I would always make sure to eat in front of people. I always ate whatever food I was willing to eat in front of my parents and friends. I would make sure they saw me eating because my family didn’t sit together for meals.

This continued for several months until I started to feel hungry all of the time. I started to sit down by the cupboard and eat as much food as I could in the time I had. I would eat several boxes and bags of all kinds of different foods in one sitting. Once the binge eating started I realized that I needed help if I didn’t want to gain the weight back because I could no longer work out due to the amount of food I was eating a day. I told my dad that I really needed to see someone and I explained what I had been doing for the past year. After some research into eating disorder programs, we landed on the Emily Program and I went in for the eval the next week. 

There are several things I wish adults had not said to me during that time. I can’t believe that amount of adults that told me how great it was that I was working hard to get back into “soccer” shape. My coaches on my new club team would always tell me that they were proud of me for working so hard to get better, how great of shape I was in, and for measuring so high on my fitness tests. Our family friends kept saying how great I looked and how I lost the “sick” weight.

We went to the doctor for my sports physical junior year and they told me that I was at 16% body fat which is “healthy” for an athlete. At holidays my family would go out of their way to talk about how great I looked and that soccer must have helped because of all the running. They had no idea I was running almost 10 miles a day outside of soccer or that I was literally starving myself. I received so much praise from the people in my life about the weight loss that it made me excited to lose more. I wish more people had said nothing or asked how I was losing the weight. No one really asked they just continued to praise me and at the time I told my dad he had no idea it was even happening.

None of this was their fault it was just what they thought was the right thing to say and I believe how many of us picture weight loss. I honestly don’t remember anyone asking if I was losing the weight in a healthy way or being worried about my weight loss because I was an athlete and it fit with the sport I played.