In this episode of Peace Meal, Rachael Steil shares her past struggles with anorexia and binge eating and her current passion for helping athletes with eating disorders. Rachael loved running from a young age, but the drive she felt to improve in her sport contributed to restrictive eating behaviors. She says she became obsessed with food and started pulling away from her friends and hobbies. Once Rachael started her recovery journey, she received incredible support from her college running coach. Reflecting on this experience, Rachael explains the essential role that coaches can have on their athletes’ lives and the importance of educating coaches on eating disorder warning signs. Rachael ends the podcast with the inspiration for creating her memoir Running in Silence and her nonprofit of the same name and previews the topic of her next book.
Rachael Steil is an eating disorder recovery advocate and the author of Running in Silence, which details her story as an All-American athlete struggling with anorexia and binge eating. She is also the founder of the Running in Silence nonprofit to break misconceptions and raise awareness for eating disorders in sports, serves on the board of the Michigan Eating Disorder Alliance, and is currently a mentor for the USTFCCCA Female Coaches Mentorship Program.
- How participating in sports that emphasize leanness, like running, can be a factor in the development of eating disorders
- How eating disorders can affect people in and outside of sport and cause them to pull away from their friends, family, and interests
- How opening up about your eating disorder can make you feel like your authentic self
- The role coaches can play in the lives of athletes suffering or recovering from an eating disorder
- Why it is so vital that coaches get training on how to spot the signs of an eating disorder and what to do if they spot them
In Rachael’s words:
- On the impact of her eating disorder: “It affected me in so many other areas besides my weight. I was getting very withdrawn. I was barely hanging out with my friends. I was constantly thinking about food. I was starting to count calories, and pulling away from everything else that I loved in my life… I didn’t realize it was partly because I was restricting food; I thought I was finally doing something right.”
- On prioritizing health over performance in sport: “[My coach] said, ‘You don’t have to be fast, you have to be healthy.’”
- On the important role of the coach: “It’s so important to know your athletes well and to develop this relationship with them because you are one of the first people that’s going to be able to recognize when there are behavior changes.”
If you would like to read the blog mentioned in the episode, “For Coaches, Approaching an Athlete with an Eating Disorder: Q&A with Dr. Paula Quatromoni,” you can find that here. Learn more about Rachael’s nonprofit by signing up for the Running in Silence newsletter and find Rachael’s book, Running in Silence, here.
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