Re-Thinking Exercise & Sport

As a former athlete at University of Washington, I was daily influenced by the onslaught of cultural diet and performance messages. I looked up to the senior athletes and quickly followed their “rules” of eating and training in hopes of success and improvement of my times on the track. With the immediate feedback loop of performance improvement, I saw no reason to pause and critically consider whether I believed the “rules” or messages I was
absorbing from my teammates. Why change any of my habits when they appeared to be working? Sadly, by the end of my freshman year, the world of competitive runners was the only “authority” I respected on the topic of nutrition and training. I thought I was more of an expert than any “non-runner” dietitians or professionals because I was on my way to becoming an elite runner and “they can’t understand me.” It took going down the dark path of an eating disorder and getting a stress fracture to humble myself enough to recognize my need for professional support and guidance.

Now, I consider my eating disorder a blessing in the long term (yes, you heard me right, I consider it a blessing!) It forced me to pause, consider my actions, understand who I am and my identity outside of sport, and ultimately led me into a relationship with movement and competitive sport with freedom from compulsion, fear, and insecurity. When I look back to my freshman year of college, I wonder if I would have avoided the pain of an
eating disorder if I had more preventative information and support in that impressionable and influential time in my development. And, yet, I can’t imagine what my life would be like without going through the anguish and struggle of an eating disorder because from that struggle, I learned about who I am and how to serve others.

When Lexi, Julie and I created Opal in 2011, I would get energized anytime I would consider creating space in our program to talk about athletics, exercise and movement. By last summer, I was ready to launch a new group in our program called Re-Thinking Exercise and Sport and it’s thrilling to see my hope realized in this group. Each week in group, my desire is that each person can stop and consider their relationship to movement, creating a space for critical thinking. I don’t intend to indoctrinate clients to my story and set of beliefs (although that can be tempting at times!) Rather, I am
hoping that our clients can hear new ways of considering a life of movement and
sports that go outside the cultural norms. I hope that this group can be one part of our client’s journeys to find who they are naturally as exercisers, free from mainstream beliefs about movement. I am so inspired and proud to be a part of  joining women in hopes of finding freedom and reclaiming joy that they once might have experienced with movement.


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