MHSAA Women in Sports Leadership Conference: Making Change

I felt blessed and honored to speak to a group of strong young women last week at the MHSAA Women in Sports Leadership Conference. I loved seeing these ladies interested in mental health and asking thoughtful, important questions.

And it struck me, looking out into the audience, that these high schoolers are the future of sports. These are aspiring coaches and athletic directors.

They will impact lives.

I saw great potential, but also heartbreak. A few tears were shed in the audience as I shared my eating disorder experiences. Having spoken about my own story for years now, I’d forgotten the impact it first had on me, and how new it is for these students to hear. I’d forgotten how scary it was when I first admitted that something was wrong, because now it is so easy to talk about, and I am so far into recovery.

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What Coaches Can Do to Prevent Eating Disorders (Q&A with Paula Quatromoni, Part 3)

This is Part 3 of the Q&A with leading specialist in eating disorders and sports, Paula Quatromoni. You can also read Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.

Q: What can coaches do to build a healthy culture and prevent eating disorders?

A: First, I’d recommend education. There is a lot that coaches can do to educate themselves and increase awareness on the topic of eating disorders in sport. They can turn to Walden GOALS materials, our resource guideRunning in Silence and Running in Silence blog posts, Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook, and credible websites like NEDA, etc. They can also attend lectures, events, and coaching conferences to engage in continuing education on the topic. Armed with this information, coaches can address concerns that they see on their teams in a one-on-one conversation and a referral to the AT like we were talking about in that last Q&A.

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For Coaches, Approaching an Athlete with an Eating Disorder (Q&A with Paula Quatromoni Part 2)

This is Part 2 of a Q&A with leading specialist in eating disorders and sports, Paula Quatromoni. Read Part 1 here.

Q: How do you recommend approaching an athlete you think might have an eating disorder?

A: Set up a private meeting with the athlete to discuss your concerns. Never, ever, ever do this in public and do not do it without some purposeful thought and advance preparation. In other words, do not have this conversation off the cuff or in the heat of a moment when you are having any kind of emotionally charged interaction with the athlete, like after a bad sport performance or when they suffer an injury.

It is important that you know the signs and symptoms of an eating disorder and that you have objective data and personal observations that align with those warning signs. Do not act on hearsay or second-hand information that could be false or inaccurate. Make notes about your observations and your concerns so that you can stay focused on the facts when you have this conversation.

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For Coaches, How to Help Athletes with Eating Disorders (Q&A with Paula Quatromoni Part 1)

Ever since meeting Paula Quatromoni at the Eating Disorders in Sport Conference last August, we have been in constant communication. Paula even had me come speak at Boston University to talk about my eating disorder experience, recovery process, and the book Running in Silence, which she endorses as a great resource for athletes and coaches, along with the information she provides below (including a downloadable PDF guide).

Paula has been especially helpful for me since I am not an expert/professional in the area of treating eating disorders. So as one of the leading experts in this field, it is a privilege and an honor to have Paula answer a few questions to help coaches better work with athletes who may have eating/weight struggles. Stay tuned for another Q&A with Paula in the near future!

Q: What can coaches/parents/sports programs do if an athlete is resistant to going to an eating disorder therapist or dietitian, but very clearly struggling with an eating disorder?

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Sexual Abuse, a Massage Therapist, and Breaking the Silence

I have been watching videos of all of the athletes coming out about the sexual abuse by inmate Larry Nassar. In doing so, I was reminded of the discomfort I had with a massage years ago. What I experienced was not as invasive as Nassar, but something was not right.

I can see why so many women with Nassar blew off their own abuse as “medical treatment,” because you think you should trust professionals to do their job properly, even if it seems strange. You’re embarrassed to question what they do, especially if it makes you uneasy in the first place. They convince you that it’s to help you.

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On Loving and Grieving

We wonder if it was worth it to love so hard when we hurt so badly having lost what we love, but I feel that deep down we know that it was worth it.

We just wonder why it is ever taken away from us, and why some people and not others. That sometimes we try to console ourselves that there’s a rhyme or reason, and that someday we will understand.

But maybe we won’t. Maybe there is no rhyme or reason. Maybe there is just pain and heartache because the world can be cruel, but the only life worth living is one in which we have loved fully and deeply, even if it means we might lose that love.

Maybe it’s to open doors for more love elsewhere, but even that doesn’t seem fair in the moment.

It could very well happen to me. Sometimes it’s a matter of when, but living life without fear that it will. Just living, and loving, and knowing we are not invincible to the phone call, or the accident that could change our lives forever; knowing this, and cherishing what time we have.

It seems strange that nature goes on as if nothing happened. That the next day it is sunny, snow is melting, and the world moves on whether we are grieving or celebrating. It doesn’t seem to care.

I watch the icicles drip, and grieve for those who have lost.

“Why Aren’t We Talking About This?” Coaches & Eating Disorders

After my presentation at the cross country and track coaches clinic in Illinois (ITCCCA), I was told that one of the coaches who attended my talk appreciated the presentation, and had heard “nothing like it” before. In fact, she thought it to be so unique and important, that she wondered why this wasn’t being told at all the other conferences.

That’s the obstacle right now. Many people don’t realize the monstrosity of the issue, and we are still at the beginning stages of awareness. We still have very little discussion on it, and most of the time the only coaches attending these kind of talks are those who know one athlete on their team who struggles with an eating disorder.

What I’ve been proposing is that this is an issue all coaches should be aware of, and openly talk about with their athletes each year. We cannot afford to wait for an athlete to approach us about an eating disorder (if they ever do bring it up), or only “look” for it in a skeletal frame. Most eating disorders don’t even necessarily HAVE an “appearance.”

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Book Tour: The Final Day (Walden Pond, Boston University)

I took on my first book tour 11/29 through 12/7, landing in Boston, driving to Vermont to speak at Saint Michael’s College, driving back to Boston to speak at BU, driving to Rhode Island to speak at URI (Kingston), and back to Boston for one last talk at BU. You can read the first entry here, the second here, the third here, and the Rhode Island trip here. The following details my final day on Wednesday 12/6:

For my last day in Boston, I visited Walden Pond.

I had learned about Henry David Thoreau in school of course, so I knew about his two-year stay at Walden Pond and what an important role that played in literature and environmentalism.

I didn’t know that standing before Walden Pond would bring me to tears.

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Book Tour: Day Trip to Rhode Island

I took on my first book tour 11/29 through 12/7, landing in Boston, driving to Vermont to speak at Saint Michael’s College, driving back to Boston to speak at BU, driving to Rhode Island to speak at URI (Kingston), and back to Boston for one last talk at BU. You can find the first entry here, the second entry here, and the third entry here. The following details my journey Tuesday 12/5:

My third talk was at the University of Rhode Island, Kingston. When scheduling this, I made sure to connect with Jill Puleo of the YouTube channel A Case of the Jills, because when we found each other on social media a few months prior (and messaged briefly), she mentioned that she was living in Rhode Island.

If you have not looked into Jill’s YouTube channel yet, then you totally should. She discusses a side of exercise/training I had never looked too deeply into: amenorrhea (cessation of the menstrual cycle). And her discussion of amenorrhea is not limited to women, either. Even through our talk together that day for lunch, I learned so much about what men experience with overtraining (not necessarily amenorrhea of course, but certainly clear signs of a body deteriorating from the stress of overtraining).

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Book Tour: The Adventures Continue With a Talk at BU

I took on my first book tour 11/29 through 12/7, landing in Boston, driving to Vermont to speak at Saint Michael’s College, driving back to Boston to speak at BU, driving to Rhode Island to speak at URI (Kingston), and back to Boston for one last talk at BU. You can find the first entry here, and the second entry here. The following details my journey Saturday 12/2 – Monday 12/4:

“Just act like you know what you’re doing.”

That’s what I told myself as I walked up the stairs out of the T rail on my second day in Boston. I was nearly confident with where I was going–which was a lot more confident than I had been 12 hours prior–but still trying to get things down perfectly and had to fake it until I made it.

Luckily, a week before this trip to Boston, I had found out at a Thanksgiving party that an Aquinas cross country alum had moved to Boston. Nick was my lifesaver, and I happened to be walking out to my lifesaver this very day I had figured out the T rail.

Nick came out to my presentation Monday, too!

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