• Elite OCR Athlete Amelia Boone Shines Light On Eating Disorders In OCR By Sharing Her Story...And We Love Her For It

 

 

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The hardest things to talk about are also the most important to share. . After my last stress fracture in March, I finally admitted that it was time to make changes. I’m not dense: I’ve known for a long time that the reason I keep breaking bones is because of my 20-year history with anorexia. . So I’ve spent the last three months at an eating disorder treatment facility, working to restore the health of both my body and my mind. . There’s a crippling shame that comes with knowing the reason you keep breaking your body but feeling incapable of changing that on your own. There’s an embarrassment that, at 35, I’m still battling this. There’s a paralysis that comes with the cognitive dissonance of knowing what you need to do, but continually falling short of that. . But there’s also a great freedom that comes in complete surrender. A quiet confidence that starts to build when you reach out for help. A calm when you realize there’s nothing to be ashamed of. And a peace that overcomes as you realize that, finally, you are learning to live again. . This is, hands down, the most important journey in my life, and one I’m ready to share. Link to full blog in my bio 👆 (one blog post can’t do it justice, so this will be an ongoing process). . To those who have been with me every step of the way, thank you. My journey is only just beginning, but I’ve never been more excited for what the future has to hold. 📸: @codypickens . #edrecovery #hope

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Written By: Katie Purcell

 

Hey All,

I want to take a break from the typical article topic you’ve come to expect from Fierce Gear OCR to address a piece of news in the obstacle course race world I feel has a huge impact on the community.

For those of you who have not heard, on Monday of this week elite athlete Amelia Boone posted publicly for the first time to reveal her lifelong struggle with an eating disorder. I was incredibly saddened to hear this news because it hits home for me, and so many others in the OCR community.

"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." -Amelia Boone

The first thing I thought when I heard this news, and the first thing I’d like to acknowledge now, is the courage and bravery it takes to be real about this. In the age of social media where we all seem to strive for “authenticity” (but instead post what I refer to as “curated authenticity” and what Amelia terms “selective vulnerability”), this is an example of TRULY putting yourself out there.

 

The Ugly Side Of Chasing "Beauty"

There is no delicate way to say it: anorexia is an ugly disease. It robs you of your dignity, and your sanity, and your ability to be the person you want and to just BE. What’s more is that this is a two-faced disease: women (and men) who suffer from anorexia are often actually praised and admired for their appearance due to its surface conformity with our cultural standards of “health,” “beauty,” and “fitness”…they’re being praised and admired for a disease which is actually destroying them. Killing them. Ripping them apart from the inside out. Then this praise and acceptance only serves to reify the disease…making it even more insidious and reinforcing its roots that take hold of our sense of self.

“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.” -Amelia Boone

It is the most socially accepted form of mental illness in our society DESPITE the fact that it is the most lethal: it has the highest mortality rate of ANY mental illness, and the lowest recovery rate. According to a study by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, between 5-10% of anorexics will die within 10 years after contracting the disease, and 18-20% will be dead after 20 years if they do not seek treatment. While it is a relief to know that mortality rates are substantially lower for those who do seek treatment (the risk drops to 2-3%), most will struggle with body image or the threat of relapses throughout their lifetime.

What's perhaps the saddest part of this whole debacle, is that there is ABSOLUTELY NO REASON FOR THIS TO EXIST. While it’s true that not all anorexics deprive themselves in pursuit of a certain body type, the majority are aspiring to a cultural ideal of aesthetics that is in many ways 100% arbitrary: just check out the video below, posted by BuzzFeed, showcasing the vastly different ideals of women’s body types in different societies over the last 3,000 years.

 

"STRONG IS THE NEW SKINNY"...IS THAT ALWAYS A GOOD THING? 

I have heard the phrase “strong is the new skinny” and seen it posted all around social media, meant to be a positive message that we have rewritten the script and what’s “trendy” for women now is to be a #strongwoman, rather than the waifs in fashion magazines or the underwear models strutting down the runway. But I have always felt a vague sense of concern that there is a darker side to this catchy phrase and it bears mentioning here: is “strong the new skinny” as in, we are finally placing a greater emphasis on strength and fitness, or is “strong the new skinny” because one unrealistic cultural ideal of what looks “good” has been replaced by another? In today’s fitness culture, and especially in the OCR world, our social newsfeeds are flooded with posts by women enthusiastically sporting their latest bruises from a race, or a #MedalMonday pose with the medal they earned over the weekend, or “complaining” (via humble brag) about their most recent WOD which was “such a killer.” But what happens when this fun sense of shared community via our #fitlife, which constantly encourages us to “level up” in an effort to keep up with the Joneses, (or in this case, the medal addicts), develops a sharp edge? 

 

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I had to learn the hard way that the idea of “perfection” in reality, does not exist. I was slapped with disappointment after disappointment in my many attempts to reach the fantasy I had created in my mind, which later led to an eating disorder, severe depression and attempts of suicide. I spent years in and out of the hospital, in programs, and therapy… I always questioned, “Whats wrong with me?”, but there was nothing “wrong” with me. I was just a girl wanting the same thing we all do, to feel accepted, appreciated, validated and loved, but the problem was I never accepted MYSELF, appreciated MYSELF, validated MYSELF or loved MYSELF. I was empty. So in time, I started to make changes: I stopped blaming others or my past for reasons I couldn’t push forward and I started owning/sharing my story without fear of judgement. I had to learn how to think differently, act differently, to reunite myself with the little girl inside I once knew. Instead of obsessing ABOUT my sadness, I became obsessed with FIGURING OUT how to overcome it. And reflecting back on my growth I recognize that it wasn’t easy getting to the place I am today. I had to build an army of angels to guide me out of my darkness and it was during those scary times when I thought there was no way out, those angels handed me a little light, they gave me hope. I want to be that hope for others. I want to be one of the angels that helps someone out of THEIR darkness. THAT is what drives me to do what I do and to stay hungry for more. 💕🤗. . . #Transformation #SelfLove

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Eating Disorders In Sports: When Our Strengths End Up Contributing To Our Weaknesses

To race at a truly competitive level in obstacle course racing demands incredible discipline and grit: it’s a sport that requires you to have speed but also endurance, strength but also agility, and to be versatile: just as comfortable swinging through the air gripping slippery monkey bars as trudging through knee deep mud or crawling under barbed wire. On top of that, being a high-performing female athlete in this largely male-dominated arena requires another level of dedication: attracting personalities that can laser-focus on a goal, for however long it takes to achieve it, all while eschewing social norms (or seeming to, anyway). In some ways, it’s the perfect storm for an eating disorder candidate.

Athletes – female athletes in particular – have several risk factors that could lead to the development of eating disorders. A NEDA study of Division 1 NCAA athletes concluded that over one-third of female athletes showed attitudes or symptoms placing them at risk for developing anorexia. Risk factors listed that are particularly prevalent in OCR include:

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Coincidentally this popped up today. So I talked yesterday about my legs...and the mental, emotional and physical journey I have had with them. 3 years ago, as I prepped to compete in what would be my last 3 shows, I had gotten to a place where I finally liked how they looked. It’s funny, I spent most of my life hating them for being short and thick because all I wanted was ballerina legs...and what made me happiest was seeing them as shredded as I could get them. Of course, 6 months after this is was nearly dying in a hospital bed, so I’ve learned that the aesthetics of my legs aren’t that important or life changing. I’ve come to terms (finally at effing 41 years old) with their looks but also their capabilities. Fuck it if my legs aren’t cut or lean...it’s not the end of the god damn world. I’m tired of being a slave to #bodydysmorphia and #anxiety about what I look like. I’m sick of feeling shitty about myself more often than I feel good or proud or happy. I am learning to appreciate all stages in my own journey and to celebrate all of my many accomplishments...I am practicing what I preach. So as I look back and think about the #transformations I have accomplished, I celebrate each one for different reasons because they have all brought me to this place of clarity and healing. #retiredtheheels #andthebootyshorts #lookingback #overcomingobstacles #determination #perseverance #grit #recoveredselfhater #myjourney #fitnessjourney #selflove #vcnfitness

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A UC San Diego study found that multiple traits that can help people excel in many areas of their life such as academia or sports can also be crucial contributing factors to the development and prosper of an eating disorder.

Enter @Pretty_Fierce_Spartan

A few years ago I posted publicly about my own struggles with an eating disordered past and I have been open about it since then, mentioning it every once in awhile like in a blog article here about "Why We Race" (using my own story as an example), and sprinkling it throughout my Instagram posts (examples here and here) in an effort to spread body positivity, and to show that it's okay to be raw and real and really put yourself out there about your past, and to let others out there that they are not alone in their struggle. With each post I put up the thing that has continued to surprise me each time is how many people have reached out to me. They have thanked me for being so open about my story and said it made them feel empowered to do the same, and that they were grateful to hear that they were not alone in their struggle. The whole “don’t judge a book by its cover” or “you can never know someone’s journey just by looking at them” thing is true…and nowhere is it more relevant than here. If you take nothing else away from this article, or if you’ve been rolling your eyes the whole time at everything up until now, please at least walk away with this: You can not…I repeat…YOU. CAN. NOT. know someone’s level of health or fitness just by looking at them. “Healthy” and “fit” look different on different people based on what our individual bodies need, and what we want them to be able to do/how we want them to perform, and the level at which we expect them to compete. It’s a delicate balance that we need to respect, regardless of what we think we “should” look like by some arbitrary societal standard. Even Amelia mentions this in her article when she writes a section called “eating disorders come in all sizes, and health comes in all sizes.” 

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Don't get it confused #fitfam ... #recovery is NOT easy. It's a choice you gotta make one day, one hour, one decision at a time. Triggers are everywhere & it would be all too easy to exchange one #addiction for another. One of the biggest challenges is learning how to let the negative feelings/thoughts wash over you without permeating your armor...to acknowledge & accept them without letting them in, & then to redirect them & let them go bc you know you are in the pursuit of something so much better. Sometimes I slip & fall, & my #training or happiness or health are affected. But that's why we have a new opportunity each day to become the person we want to be & to live the life we deserve. Faith is trusting the process & taking the next step even when you cannot see it. It's not always easy, but it is ALWAYS worth it. ---------------------------------------------------------- #motivationmonday #spartanrace #spartanelite #athletelife #recoveryisworthit #selflove #bodypositivity #strongwomen #womenofspartan #beastmode #raceday #OCR #fitness #fitlife #fitgirl #fitspo #prettyfiercespartan

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...We are doing this to ourselves. We accept it as a culture by turning a blind eye, and we reinforce it every time we compare our body to another and let the negative thoughts take hold. We have the power to rewrite the script and place the emphasis on TRUE health – in whatever form that looks like.

“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.” -Amelia Boone

Keep this in mind the next time you look at another athlete and automatically think, “How is he so much more cut than I am?” or, “She looks so amazing…my training and nutrition are right on track so why can’t I look like that?” Challenge yourself to love yourself enough to quiet those thoughts or redirect them, and remind yourself that, as Amelia discovered, “just managing” is not enough.

 

I Don't Speak Out Because I'm Special: I Speak Out Because I'm Not (Unique)

I have said before and I will say again: I do not share my story because I think I am particularly unique or interesting. I’m not looking for sympathy, or empathy, or any other kind of “pathy.” Much to the contrary: I speak out about it precisely because I am not unique. It seems Amelia would agree with me, as she also said “…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.” 

 

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💙 National Eating Disorders Awareness Week 💙 . I was 15 when I got sick. It was just a diet . . . until it wasn’t. I couldn’t have known that anorexia would rule my life for the next 15 years. I lost over half my body weight, but I also lost so much more. Friends, hobbies, confidence—and eventually, myself. I had no idea who I was without the eating disorder, and until my kidneys failed, I don’t think I ever seriously considered a life without it. #OCR, #rockclimbing, and #ninjawarrior have played a huge role in rediscovering and redefining myself in a healthy way. There are still days that I struggle, and maybe I always will . . . but it’s no longer a losing battle. . #nedaweek #neda #eatingdisorderawareness #edrecovery #anorexia #anorexiarecovery #healing #comeasyouare . . #anw #anw11 #spartan #spartan40 #strongwomen #girlswithmuscle #notstrongforagirljuststrong #nevergiveup #neverquit #strongnotskinny #fitness #fitlife #fitspo #lawyer #fitlawyer #ckd #dowhatyoulove #progressnotperfect #transformationtuesday

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Change does not happen overnight: it doesn’t happen with a single person, or a single voice, or a single blog post. But we have the opportunity and the power to change what goes on today – what we idolize and what we talk about (and what we don’t talk about) – to set the foundation for a better tomorrow for the next generation of athletes.

So, what part does Amelia Boone play in all this? Some people who read her statements or learn this news will feel tempted to feel disappointed, or upset, or even betrayed by her. They will say that this athlete: widely regarded to be the pinnacle of female achievement in the sport of obstacle course racing, who is a role model for many aspiring athletes (women and young girls alike) was, in a sense, deceiving us all along. While we looked up to her and lauded her for her athletic accomplishments, and marveled at the unstoppable combination of power lawyer and super athlete, the woman who we believed had it all together…really didn’t. Some might accuse her of being “weak” for letting a silly societal ideal of beauty “control her,” or criticize her for not facing her demons more aggressively by seeking treatment sooner. But I would disagree with those people…bigtime. They are the bullies of the world, or simply misinformed about how eating disorders work. The more light we shed on this issue, and the less we allow it to continue to hide in the shadows, the greater will be the outrage at what it truly is and the farther we will ALL be on the road to recovery.

“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.” -Amelia Boone

To Amelia directly I would say: Good luck, and thank you. You are a warrior on the race course and a real force to be reckoned with...I have no doubt that you will bring the same ferocity to your treatment and find the peace, the passion, and the joy you are searching for. I know that you know that recovery always has its ups and downs...and sometimes it can feel like an overwhelming emotional roller coaster and all we want to do is get off and revert to what's comfortable and familiar. But recovery: just like training...just like racing...just like life, is a journey. And ya just gotta get up and keep going every day no matter what "obstacles" come your way (see what I did there? 😉).

My dad always taught me to "Run through the finish line" and in some ways that has never been more relevant than right now: because just like on Race Day, you never know how it's all gonna turn out until you leap over that fire jump at the end. 

🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥

 

The End (Of The Beginning)

I will end my thoughts here, although I know the conversation is only just beginning. Being a “strong woman” and a role model doesn’t mean never making mistakes. Being an “inspiration” doesn’t mean being perfect. I saw a quote recently that said:

 

 

LIVE FIERCE.

 

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