When the ballgame takes YOU out
Whenever someone comes to you and says “Hey I have this process that will change your life” it’s okay to be a little — or a lot — skeptical. Especially when it comes to your health.
The proof is in the people.
That’s why I love hearing patients’ stories — how they’re getting energy back, getting sleep back, getting health and getting LIFE back.
Today’s story is from Ashley, a woman whose passion for sports almost destroyed her life.
“College athlete” is often times a misunderstood lifestyle, full of stereotypes and preconceived notions. What follows is my personal story entailing the stresses of the day-to-day life of a college student, in combination with being a college athlete, and what it did to me mentally and physically.
“Only he who can see the invisible can do the impossible.”
– Frank L. Gaines
Being the youngest in my very competitive family, and having my father as a coach, I wanted nothing more than to be successful and earn a college softball scholarship. So, it felt like a dream when I got the news… it was really happening!
My first year of college started off like any other freshman’s, I suppose. I was scared, excited, and ready to start a new chapter in my life.
But even though I felt prepared for college, I could never have guessed the stress incurred by being a collegiate athlete.
It was more responsibility than I even knew existed. Immediately, we were thrown into non-stop meetings, early morning workouts, strenuous practices, and hours of study hall in order to keep our grades up. Not to mention, I was lucky if I got 5 hours of sleep a night.
To deal with my stress, I often found myself in the gym off campus. Working out and eating right felt like my “happy” place.
However, through over-exercising and under-eating, the Athlete’s Triad Syndrome, (osteoporosis, loss of menstruation, and eating disorders) which I had battled in high school made a triumphant return — on top of injuries and illnesses such as strained back, pulled muscles, walking pneumonia, tonsillitis, mononucleosis, and was constantly battling colds, sore throats and exhaustion.
Being a college athlete is, without a doubt, a full-time job that is emotionally and physically draining. However, as any athlete would most likely explain, there is a love and passion for sports, and the constant roller coaster and exhaustion are a part of the “game.”
You may think I’m odd, but being the competitive person I am, I loved being pushed to my limits most of the time.
While playing D1 collegiate softball, I still managed to find myself in the gym outside of team practices and weights/conditioning. I have always been a very picky eater and didn’t eat the calories my body needed for the amount of training I was doing.
Because of this, I constantly battled having regular monthly cycles, which impacted my energy, strength, and mood. I was put on medication to prevent osteoporosis and tried several different types of birth control to help regulate my body. With the excessive training, I was constantly battling muscle soreness, fatigue, and injury.
That summer following graduation was emotionally wearing due to a few family losses. I spent most of my time recovering from my surgery and injuries and was later diagnosed with West Nile Virus. This took several months to bounce back from. That fall I started graduate school and began my internship with Dr. Willey.
“Being defeated is often a temporary condition. Giving up is what makes it permanent.”
— Marilyn vos Savant
During this time, I was in a very toxic relationship and managed to hide it very well from those around me. In my two years of graduate school I was adamant about wanting to compete in bodybuilding. Again, I used the gym as my outlet for the stress.
To help control the weight and body fat I had gained, Dr. Willey had me try various diets, workouts, and hormone treatments. It seemed as if, no matter what I did, I was still gaining body fat while also being emotionally exhausted and struggling in my relationship.
I went months without sugar, re-feed (cheat) meals, or any type of relaxation whatsoever.
Then came my lowest point. Mentally and physically, I was in a rough place.
But this final breakdown was my first break-through.
It helped me understand that my struggle was one many athletes go through after college — but also that I wasn’t truly listening to Dr. Willey’s advice.
I always knew he was right; my mind just couldn’t accept that the gym was my cope!
I began to consume more calories, staying very low carbohydrate and particularly higher in fats and proteins. I spent the next two and a half years patiently waiting for results. I knew through his experience, words of wisdom, and hormone treatments I would eventually level out again.
After about two years of following his diet regimen and exercise advice, I brought in more “cheat” meals.
I finally started to enjoy food again and more importantly, life in general.
My attitude started to change for the better. I eventually tapered off the hormone treatment and began noticing changes in my body fat and weight measurements.
For those who are battling the “post-college sport weight gain,” I encourage you to be very patient in your time of recovery. It has now been three years since I graduated school and a year and half free of hormone therapy.
I am currently back down to the weight and body fat I was at in college but feel drastically different and significantly healthier.
I am still very passionate about the gym and living a healthy lifestyle, but I’ve learned that recovering from excessive overtraining and under-eating takes a lot of time, dedication, and consistency.
I’m sharing Ashley’s story because she is a classic example of the ex-athlete I see in my office all the time. Dedicated, sure of herself, confident, but due to the Fat to Fit nature of her training, she was set up for eventual failure.
I can’t emphasize enough that thinking “more is better” when it comes to exercise and “less is better” when it comes to food is the major contributor to fitness failures.
Ashley put in the dedicated work and started healing her mind as well as her body.
I can’t wait to see more people like her and like you get their passion for life back by taking the RecoverMe journey. It’s what wakes me up in the morning and keeps me going. How can I help you?
Whole health often begins with what’s going on between your ears. I’ve developed a simple mental well-being checklist that you can use each day to optimize your mental well-being.
Originally published at medium.com