Written by Niah Davis
Practice, weights, conditioning, traveling and on top of it all attending classes and maintaining a good grade point average. Unfortunately, college athletes also have to contend with a higher likelihood of developing an eating disorder.
Lauren Baker is a determined, music-loving dance-like-no-one’s-watching freshman on the women’s volleyball team at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. However, it was much earlier on during her freshman year of high school in South Bend, Indiana when she began to struggle with her eating disorder.
“I had anorexia nervosa and in my junior year of high school, during recovery, it turned into binge eating disorder.” She says, “It started late freshman year, early sophomore year. I think it stemmed from middle school because I was always taller and more muscular than everyone else. In middle school, all my friends were so scrawny and tiny still, so there was a disconnect in my head where I believed I should look like that.”
According to Healthline Media, one of the most common eating disorders is anorexia nervosa. Those with anorexia tend to excessively track calories, exercise extremely often and restrict food intake, all of which can lead to severe malnutrition or death.
During high school, Baker’s life was very structured: she would eat at the same time, the same meals, and only 1,000 calories a day. If she ate over her calorie limit she would immediately go to the gym to work out.
“One night I had volleyball practice and I went to the gym after because I ate over my calorie limit for the day, so I went to the gym and ran three miles.” Baker says, “When I got home, my parents were concerned, they made me a bowl of cereal and sat me down. I sat there and cried for three hours before I literally could take a bite.”
Baker describes her disorder as a combination of food addiction and a lack of control. She was constantly managing how much time she had before she would eat her next meal, how far apart the meals were and what she would eat next.
While in recovery there were times she would binge foods her body was not used to eating in large consumptions. Unfortunately, during anorexia recovery, the disorder began to take on another form in binge eating.
A binge eating disorder is when someone consumes a large amount of food in a short period of time and loses control during the binge. A binge eater often experiences shame and guilt which can result in restricting or purging.
Baker says, “I would eat meals and have like three pieces of cake for dessert and say, oh my god! But then my parents would say, it’s okay, your body just wanted three pieces of cake!”
The recovery from binge eating disorder was far more difficult according to Baker; it was easier for her to start eating than to stop. This created frustration for Baker because her hunger cues were off due to one disorder beginning right after the other.
“With both being back to back, it was so hard for me to tell if I was hungry or I was full. It was frustrating in a way because I would think, why am I eating so much or why am I not eating enough.”
Looking back, Baker will just tell herself, “girl, it’s not that deep!” There is a balance between knowing your limits and not. If she starts to feel guilty about fueling her body she reminds herself that she will not feel this way tomorrow or even next week.
“I am not gonna lie, in the back of my head, I still know how many calories are in everything and I still know, to a relevant amount, how much I’m ingesting a day.” Baker says, “ I don’t think it will ever go away, but I have really accepted it now and I am listening to my body.”
It was not easy for Baker to deal with a disorder that affected her mentally and physically, but she was able to grow and learn how strong she is when faced with adversity.
“I feel like it’s made me a lot stronger…I face adversity now and it doesn’t phase me as much as it would before. Honestly now I look at every day and say, I can get through anything that life throws at me.”
Niah Davis is a Communications major with a minor in Business Administration and works as a Feature Writer for College Fashionista. Davis is experienced in writing, content creation, and influencer marketing. In her free time, Niah hosts a podcast, creates content for Nars Cosmetics, and takes photographs. For questions or collaboration with Niah, contact her at email@example.com.