RecoverED Stories: Betsy

By: Betsy Brenner

I have a special place in my heart for athletes who are struggling with an eating disorder.  My message to you is use the same mindset that helped you achieve athletic success to defeat “ED”. 

I was a nationally ranked junior tennis player and played four years of Division 1 tennis at Brown University, finishing my career as the #1 singles player and one-half of the #1 doubles team.  After taking a break from tennis for law school, marriage, and motherhood, I returned to tennis in my 40’s, playing competitively again and enjoying a 13-year second career as a high school tennis coach.  This background underscores the fact that I understand how eating disorders develop in athletes, but even more importantly, I know first-hand that those same personality traits which drive athletic success and the development of an eating disorder can also drive recovery.

I speak from my own experience, but I am quite sure many of you can relate.  My tennis career provided me with so many life lessons and experiences for which I will always be grateful.  I was disciplined, motivated, determined, and learned how to set goals and work hard to achieve them.  My perfectionistic personality propelled me as I practiced new skills until I mastered them.  On the tennis court, I learned how to win and lose with grace.  My tennis was a significant source of self-esteem through adolescence and college – it was my identity.  It was also an outlet for emotions I did not know how to express and for the anxiety and depression not diagnosed until I was in my 40’s.  Tennis also gave me the opportunity to travel around the country and make life-long friendships.  When I returned to tennis, it once again contributed to my self-esteem and became a strong part of my identity.  I became a well-respected tennis coach with much success on court.

For me, however, coaching was an opportunity to make a difference in young student-athletes’ lives.  Of course, the many match wins and championships provided wonderful memories, but I would like to think I taught my players life lessons.  At the beginning of each season, I told my players that I cared about them as a whole person, not just as a tennis player.  I made sure they knew I was another adult in their lives who was there for them through the ups and downs of high school life.  I also impressed upon them the importance of fueling their bodies properly for practices and competition, and how rest and recovery were necessary for optimal performance. 

Unfortunately, during my more than a decade of coaching, I was struggling with my own eating disorder. As is common with any mental illness, the shame I felt kept me from admitting I was struggling.  I was not giving my body the rest and recovery it needed, especially when adult-onset asthma kept me off the court.

When I returned to tennis, I received positive comments on how my body had changed. Unfortunately, the seeds of the eating disorder planted throughout my life fully bloomed into anorexia as I developed an intense fear of gaining weight, and my brain became consumed by thoughts about food and exercise.  The eating disorder took hold as a way to cope with the anxiety and depression that resulted from serious asthma flare ups.  ED helped me feel in control when asthma kept me off the tennis court and kept me from being the on-the-go mother of three that I loved to be.  Not understanding that my “asthma funk” was actually anxiety and depression, I spiraled deeper into my eating disorder as a way to cope.

Fortunately, my dietitian had been an athlete herself.  She understood the personality traits I possessed that had led to success in my tennis career but also had perpetuated my eating disorder – perfectionism, drive, obsession, and perseverance.  She wanted me to apply those traits to my recovery.  This time “ED” was my opponent on the other side of the net and a very strong one indeed. A critical piece was desire, because it wasn’t enough to want recovery, because I had to be willing to do whatever it takes.  Desire and determination form the foundation for the recovery journey.  I could lose games and even sets along the way but still claim victory in the match.  I love professional tennis player Sloane Stephens’ quote, “You either win or you learn.” 

A bad day in recovery or a missed shot is not failure, but rather, it is an opportunity to learn from it and move on.  “Do the next right thing” I was told on many occasions. 

In sports, we dig deep and use that mental toughness to be the best that we can be.  In recovery from an eating disorder, along with professional treatment, we need to channel the innate personal qualities that have led to athletic accomplishment into the hard work of recovery from the eating disorder.

 There are two important quotes that I used with my athletes each year to guide them on court.  I also internalized them as part of my own recovery journey.  The first one is Theodore Roosevelt’s “Believe you can and you are halfway there.”  Self-belief is essential for both athletic success and recovery.  Without that self-belief, there is little chance for success.  The second is Winston Churchill’s “Never ever, ever give up,” says it all.  Despite setbacks in recovery, or missed shots on the court, keep moving forward and take what you learn along the way.  There are no shortcuts, but lasting recovery is possible.

In my memoir, “The Longest Match: Rallying to Defeat an Eating Disorder in Midlife,” (2021), I detail my life, filled with many blessings and privileges, but also with profound emotional pain, anxiety, depression, and ultimately an eating disorder.  My tennis career which has given me so many gifts, unfortunately became intertwined with my eating disorder.  With professional treatment and by channeling the personal qualities that led to success on the tennis court and in life, into the hard work of recovery, I was able to “rally to defeat ED.”  There were twists and turns along the way, and food remains my medicine, but I dug deep, persevered, and have achieved a healthier balance in my life in body, mind and spirit.  I am now living my authentic life and am passionate about sharing my story with others. 

By: Betsy Brenner

Author, Speaker, and Peer Support Mentor

“The Longest Match: Rallying to Defeat an Eating Disorder in Midlife”


RecoverED Stories: Kristie

Thank you to Kristie of Recovered Living for sharing this post with us today.

When I was an elite athlete (weightlifting), my athletic abilities were my identity. I would do all sorts of ‘extra’ things – running, climbing mountains, pushing myself to the max. Secretly I hated pushing myself that hard. I didn’t enjoy it, it hurt, and truthfully, I wanted to curl into a ball and cry but the praise and admiration I got for my abilities fed my eating disorder. I believed unless I pushed myself hard, I wasn’t special.

Weightlifting has bodyweight categories, so weight was a constant part of my everyday life and my sporting career. If I could go back to my fourteen-year-old self, I would tell her that her bodyweight wasn’t important, what was important was enjoying the pursuit of competition. I would tell her rather than trying to keep her body one size and weight so that she could compete internationally, it was worth waiting to see where her body wanted to land naturally, rather than waiting for 14 years to recover from an eating disorder as a result of manipulating her body. I would tell her its ok to struggle with food and weight because the nature of having to weigh a certain number for a competition is inherently disordered, so I was having a normal reaction to an abnormal situation.

I am no longer an elite athlete but that doesn’t mean I have stopped challenging myself. Rather than lifting weights, I lift others up (I am an eating disorder therapist now). Rather than pushing my body to the max, I push my dreams to the max and go big! Rather than pushing myself to change my body, I push myself to change the narrative in sport around food and bodies.

I don’t exercise anymore. I play. I will probably never do a set or rep again in my life because I have done many millions of those, and they don’t interest me anymore. I will however throw a ball, ride a horse, or paddle a kayak. These things fill my soul and bring me joy. The high I get from a good day on the river far outweighs the very best day I had as an athlete on the world stage – because the joy was always tainted with ‘and now I have to make weight for the next competition’. After a good day on the river, I go and have lunch with my friends and that is the greatest gift of all.

One of my biggest joys is working with athletes or retired athletes, in their recovery from an eating disorder. There is a lot of unlearning to do, grieving, exploring, and lots of recovery wins! Recovered Living is a recovery coaching organisation I created whereby every coach who works with clients is fully recovered from an eating disorder. A coach is literally like a sports coach…but for recovery. They make a plan with you (the training program), they are with you while you execute it (the training sessions) and are there in between to check in with by text or email (the coach/athlete relationship). We want to coach you to your greatest achievement – your recovery. Please reach out if you want to find out more about recovery coaching

Recovered Living is an amazing organization, check out their website link above and follow them on Instagram @recoveredliving. They also have inspiring videos on their YouTube page of recovering and recovered individuals sharing their story.

Christ-Centered Food & Body Image Freedom: FINDINGbalance Organization

Check out the post below by Amy Schaller of the FINDINGbalance organization, a wonderful Christ-centered nonprofit organization for food and body image freedom.

What is the FINDINGbalance organization? What is the mission of the organization?

Since 2002, FINDINGbalance has been committed to helping people repair their relationship with food so they can get on with the life they were created to live. Instead of selling an eating plan or diet product, we arm you with God’s truth about how your body was designed, and offer community for you to begin to find support to apply that truth in your own life (Matt.18:20). We offer “easily-accessible” resources designed to help in your journey toward freedom. As a Christ-centered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, we are dedicated to helping people find freedom from eating issues, body image challenges, and illuminating hope through God’s truth about their value (Gal. 5:1, our key verse).

What is your role in the organization and why are you passionate about serving those with food/body image struggles?

I serve as FINDINGbalance’s Outreach Coordinator, volunteering 20-50 hours a week, depending on the need. I respond to emails, prayer requests, and those who reach out for support and resources through our website’s “self-test” page. I love what I do and I do it because others did the same for me when I was struggling with disordered eating. Our Founder, Constance Rhodes, was instrumental in my recovery journey; she took an interest in me, way back in 2006, at a time when I didn’t see my value. God spoke through her, and I now give back through my work at FINDINGbalance. I don’t think I could ever repay what I have received through this ministry. It allows me to do something bigger than what I could do alone, I love being a partner, supporter, and encourager (and a donor)! Since Constance stepped back from Executive Director in 2021, I’m now honored to work with women who have become dear friends- the new Executive Director Chrissy Kirkman and Board Treasurer Liesl Dunlap. We are a small yet mighty team at Fb!

What services/materials are offered?

Can I list them all here?! We have many!

  • Eating Issues Test: Not sure where you stand with eating issues? Take a test to know the enemy you’re up against;
  • The Daily Vitamin eDevo: free devotional with bite-sized truth emailed 5 days a week;
  • Community Groups: Find connection with Bible study and prayer groups;
  • Old School Food Freedom Podcast: show created to interrupt negative cultural soundtracks and get back to the old-school basics of God’s original design for our relationship with food and our bodies;
  • Digital Learning Library: library of free videos, articles, and expert Q&A on topics related to ED, body image, and food;
  • Christian Treatment Finder: Connecting you with Christian providers experienced in treating eating issues. Professionals- create a profile so you can be found!
  • Lasting Freedom Online Course: Our online course takes a Christ-centered, non-diet approach to working through false beliefs about food and weight. Includes 7 modules with 42 video lessons total, and “Action Pak” downloads that accompany each lesson with guided worksheets to take you deeper through activities, notes, journal prompts, and scripture.

Why is it important to pursue a Christ-centered approach to food/body image struggles?

I could never have recovered from where I was if I hadn’t placed my eating disorder in Jesus’ capable hands; I do not believe my recovery was possible without God next to me, helping me fight that battle. He brought caring people into my life, spoke truth through those people, and without Him, I’d have fallen and never gotten back up; through Him, all things are possible (Matt. 19:26). Leaning on His grace and truth, I became stronger, and I believe recovery can happen for anyone. I had to make the choice to stand up and fight with Him alongside me.

What is a message of hope or a piece of wisdom that you’d like to provide today?

One of my favorite quotes is from German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer and imparts the wisdom that God wants us to celebrate food as we eat- “God cannot endure that unfestive, mirthless attitude of ours in which we eat our bread in sorrow, with pretentious, busy haste, or even with shame. Through our daily meals He is calling us to rejoice, to keep holiday in the midst of our working day.” This changed everything for me, when I saw food as an act of worship, to feed my body and enjoy meals without shame or judgment; to enjoy what I eat with no moral value on what I eat.

May God’s grace abound,


Thank you Amy! Check out more about FINDINGbalance at and follow them on Instagram @findingbalance

The Truth About Eating Disorders

By: Victoria Patterson @words.with.vj

Imagine that it’s 2000 years ago. You’re at the last supper and you are one of the disciples, unaware of what is about to come. Jesus has just offered the bread and wine, telling you to eat it as He explains what they resemble. Do you panic inwardly because you hadn’t planned on eating that extra bit? Do you check your fitness app to see if it fits into your “plan” for the day? Do you tell yourself you’ll eat it, but be sure to make up for it that evening or the next day? Or do you take it, eat it, and sit in His presence peacefully? I’m sure none of the disciples would have dreamed of turning away that food. In fact, I’m sure that while they were in His presence, they were not thinking about how thin they were or if they thought Jesus thought they looked the “hottest and fittest”. But what would you do if you were in that situation? 

As someone who is still in recovery for an eating disorder, I’m here to say that I would probably do anything but sit there peacefully. Even if I chose to eat the bread and drink the wine our Savior offered, I would be in mental agony because of the eating disorder. And how heartbreaking this is to admit that this disease truly does control so much of my life. Eating disorders are not a glamorous thing as society sometimes seems to say. Movies make fun of eating disorders, friends make loose comments about them, and diet culture screams that eating disorder habits are normal. Eating disorders are a silent disease that debilitate the daily lives of those they inflict. I say silent disease because a lot of times, people are able to keep the struggle hidden. Years can go by and loved ones have no idea their dear friend is inflicted with this mental “disease”.  It’s this disease that keeps a person from eating a piece of simple food offered by a friend, even if that friend happened to be Jesus. 

Something that is on my heart today is to talk about the truth of eating disorders. I want to emphasize how eating disorders do not offer the peace, happiness, and security they tell us that they will bring. Oftentimes, eating disorders develop out of a need for something, whether that is approval, self-love, an escape from life, etc. The appealing thing about eating disorders is our brain tells us that through them, everything will be fixed. We believe the lie that life will be better and we will feel more fulfilled and secure. We start thinking, “Once I’m this size, then he will love me”, or “If I can just lose weight, I’ll be a better athlete and praised more.” These types of thoughts are false, yet they sit in the background of our minds every day. The truth about eating disorders is that they cannot satisfy us or make us better. They steal joy away from us, keep us from going out with friends, leave us in shame every day, and prevent us from enjoying the bodies that God has given us. They do anything but satisfy us. No amount of food we eat, minutes we exercise, or body shape we have can ever satisfy us. The only One who can satisfy us is Jesus, the bread of life. I love how this is how He is described in John 6. The very thing people with eating disorders are scared of, food, is something used to describe Jesus as the only One who can fill us up and satisfy us fully. 

This life is fleeting, and this body won’t last forever. Sometimes, I think it’s easy for us to think that eating disorders are good. Even though they are an enemy, they become a friend, a comfort during hard times. They become “normal” even when they are the exact opposite of normal. In fact, much of society even says that eating disorder habits are normal and should be celebrated. It’s easy for us to cling to the eating disorder instead of God. It’s time for us to fix our focus on Christ and lean into Him during our day to day lives of struggling. Doing this doesn’t mean instant recovery. It doesn’t make things easy, and many days, it’s the opposite of what you want to do. But one thing I’ve been working on is learning to lean into God in the struggle. He wants you, and He loves you. The more we do this, the more we can see that He satisfies us and brings us peace. We can start to see that when we are faced with the intrusive thoughts and temptations to engage in disordered behaviors, He is the true way out of the struggle. He may not heal us fully on this side of eternity, but He is with us and gives us the strength to get through each day and fight the enemy. My hope and prayer is that through this post, you are able to see the reality of what an eating disorder is and how Jesus is the only way to peace, joy, and satisfaction. As you continue along in the journey, my desire is that we can all get to a point where if we were offered the last supper by Jesus, we could accept it and sit in His presence peacefully.

Thank you Victoria for such a beautiful post. Connect with her on Instagram @words.with.vj

Eating Disorders and Performance Sports

By: Eleanor Clarke, LMHC-A

My struggle with body image and disordered eating began very young; what eventually became an overwhelming obsession started as mere discomfort in my skin and dissatisfaction with my body. Performance-based sports thrive on this foundational insecurity – as much as I loved and still love dance and cheerleading, I know the aesthetic nature of the sports significantly contributes to the proportionally high rates of eating disorders among these athletes. Now, as a cheerleading coach and eating disorder therapist, I hear the same body-shaming comments from athletes as the ones I used to say to myself. The sport has only become more demanding and elite

I’m constantly in awe of these athletes, though I simultaneously feel worried at times for the pressure they experience both from themselves and others. I hear a few themes from both my athlete clients and the athletes I coach that I want to specifically explore today by emphasizing three simple truths: 1) life is more important than your sport, 2) your body is an instrument, not an ornament, and 3) your worth is inherent, not earned.

  1. My life is more important than this sport.
    The first theme I’ve noticed is over-emphasizing the role of a sport in your life; this is especially dangerous when an athlete confuses disordered eating with athletic performance. For example, if I believe being a cheerleader is the most important role in my life and I also believe restricting my calories or overdoing it in the gym is part of how I make myself the best cheerleader I can be, then these eating disorder behaviors feel directly tied to my identity. This is an especially easy slippery slope to fall into in high school and college athletics. As much as I want my cheerleaders to value their sport, take the privilege of cheerleading seriously, and pour themselves into doing their best, I never want them to falsely believe that being a cheerleader is more important than being a kind friend or healthy person. Very few sports last an entire
    lifetime, and this is unfortunately true for sports like cheerleading and dance – most people don’t continue dancing or cheering past high school, and only a tiny percentage will continue dancing or cheering post-college. If identity isn’t found outside the sport, the adjustment to no longer having the sport is even more painful. Sports are so fun and life-giving, but they are not the most important part of your life.
  2. My body is an instrument, not an ornament.
    The second theme I see is performance-based athletes caring more about the way their bodies look than the way their bodies function: rather than focusing on the body feeling capable and moving with ease, aesthetic sport athletes often fall into the trap of judging athletic ability on the body’s appearance. I’ve seen clients I work with and athletes I coach focus on weight loss and muscle definition for aesthetic reasons only to find they sacrificed actual athletic performance in order to accomplish these goals. One of my favorite body image books to date is More Than a Body by Lexie and Lindsay Kite – this line, “my body is an instrument, not an ornament,” is the book’s mantra. When we perceive our bodies as objects to be looked at rather than as functional carriers of ourselves, we completely misplace the purpose of our bodies. Aesthetic and performance-based sports often misdirect this focus. Athletes, by nature, have to place some focus on their bodies; this does not have to be unhealthy or obsessive, and many athletes do an excellent job of caring for their bodies in an appropriate way. This balance is difficult in performance-based sports, as athletic performance can easily be confused with aesthetics and appearance. This tendency to confuse aesthetics and athletics makes it all the more important for athletes like cheerleaders to perceive their own bodies as instruments for their own use, not ornaments to be objectified.
  • My worth is inherent, not earned.
    Finally, the third theme I see is the exhausting attempt to earn worth and value through a sport that can never actually deliver this type of fulfillment. Many athletes struggling with eating disorders are desperately trying to achieve worth and value by striving for an impossibly perfect version of themselves. As a result, their self-evaluations are often negative and the eating disorder becomes a false but nonetheless perceived way to achieve and feel worthy. It is, therefore, vitally important that athletes, especially performance-based athletes, understand that worth is inherent, not earned. Athletic achievement feels powerful and satisfying, but it does not increase the amount of worth and value you have – neither does an athletic season of struggle,
    loss, injury, or pain reduce the amount of worth and value you have.

  • In Luke 12:7, Jesus says, “In fact, even the hairs on your head are all numbered. Do not be afraid; you are more valuable than many sparrows.” We, as God’s children, have worth and value that we cannot alter by our actions – including our eating behaviors, workout habits, and athletic abilities. Your life is more important than your sport, your body is an instrument of use not an ornament to be looked at, and your worth is inherent – don’t let your eating disorder confuse these foundational truths.

Thank you Eleanor for a wonderful post! Connect with her on Instagram @eleanorclark_lmhca

And pre-order her Body Neutrality book on Amazon at this link.

Ready, Set, Go! (or Should I Stop?)

By: Lisa DeKam, PT

When healing from an eating disorder, it might feel confusing at times to know how to
make decisions around exercise. We know there are so many benefits to exercise and
movement, and at the same time, activity choices can feel tricky if exercise has been
mixed in with the eating disorder. We also know it’s important to “listen to our bodies,”
though if the eating disorder has fostered a disconnect between your mind and body,
listening skills can feel new and uncertain.
So where do we start? Using a stoplight tool to gauge physical, mental and emotional
readiness and response can bring some clarity to these choices. Here’s how this
resource can be used:

● Red lights indicate that your body and mind aren’t ready for exercise. This could
include (but isn’t limited to) ongoing pain, exhaustion, illness, restricting
food/drink, feeling unable to adapt to a change in your exercise schedule, using
exercise primarily as a means to numb out, or feeling a sense of dread or
punishment with exercise.

● Green lights are signs that your body and mind are ready to go. Being pain- and
symptom-free, feeling energized and rejuvenated by movement, adapting to your
mind and body cues, enjoying being in the presence of others, and being
well-nourished would fall into this category.

● Yellow lights are sometimes the most confusing. Are you feeling fatigued? A
nap might be in order before you exercise. Do you feel sluggish but know that
exercise often rejuvenates you? Set a timer and check in with yourself 5 minutes
into your session–if you’re still tired, you have permission to stop and rest. If
your body and mind feel energized and sturdy, proceed mindfully. Have you
missed a snack or meal? Take time to eat and digest before your movement
session. Is your anxiety high? Practice using another mental health tool (ie.
breathwork, grounding, journaling, social support) first to bring yourself to a
steadier state.

This stoplight tool can be used before and during your session to assess your readiness
to exercise and to practice listening to what your mind and body need and want. It can
also be used afterward to reflect on the response of your mind and body, helping to
guide your future choices and behaviors. (Of note, always follow the guidance of your
treatment team if they’ve determined that a pause from exercise is indicated for a period
of time.)

Mindfulness and intentionality are key in using this tool to guide your movement. If you
sense the eating disorder dismissing pain or injury, creating an urgency for movement,
or moving itself into the driver’s seat with exercise in other ways, being attuned to your
mental, physical and emotional readiness for movement will help you know if you need
to take your foot off the gas, adjust your direction, or tap the brakes on certain exercise
As with other pieces of recovery, using support in navigating your exercise choices is
also important for countering the push of the eating disorder toward isolation. You don’t
need to do this alone–lean into your support system as you build skills in assessing
exercise readiness and response. Stoplights can be an efficient and effective tool for
checking in with your support team, addressing any areas of concern, and celebrating
together the places where you’re experiencing freedom and joy!
As you learn more about how your mind and body respond to movement, this
self-assessment process becomes easier and more intuitive–what may have felt at the
beginning like city driving with various starts and stops can over time turn into the
freedom of a joy ride!

Lisa DeKam, PT is a physical therapist and the co-founder of The Axia Project, an organization dedicated to helping women know the truth that her worth is not based off the appearance of her body.

Connect with Lisa on Instagram

Learn more about The Axia Project on Instagram @theaxiaproject or on their website

How Do I Know if Exercise is Helping or Hurting?

By Lisa Dekam, PT

It’s common knowledge that we can experience a whole host of health gains from exercise and movement. While this is true, when exercise is not well-supported, it has the potential to put our health at risk in a variety of ways.

We live within a culture that defines a specific body shape and size as desirable. In emphasizing weight loss and weight management, diet culture robs us of prioritizing a whole host of health-promoting benefits of movement that are independent of weight, shape and appearance. In the context of diet culture, exercise can become a go-to tool in attempts to change our bodies to align with the cultural beauty ideal.

Exercise might also compromise our health when it becomes the only way to deal with the challenges that life throws our way. It’s a great tool to have in our mental health toolbox, but if it’s the only tool we’re using to support mental health, there may be times when it’s not only unhelpful but also harmful. For example, if we decided to build a house together and only used hammers to tackle the job, we could do a lot of good with our hammers, but there would likely be times when a saw would be more useful or when using hammers might actually do some damage.

An overemphasis on performance might also lead to exercise that compromises our health. In an attempt to get stronger, faster, or to outperform a competitor, we might overexert ourselves, creating an energy imbalance that makes it hard for our bodies to function well and increasing our risk of injury or illness.

Needless to say, the line between supporting and compromising our health can get fuzzy. In fact, “engaging in dysfunctional exercise is one of the strongest predictors of eating disorder relapse, second to social isolation. Exercise is often the first presenting and last remaining symptom of an eating disorder.”*

So is it the amount of time spent exercising that increases risk? Is it the intensity or type of activity? And what’s the role of my mindset, thoughts and beliefs around exercise?
Exercise becomes dysfunctional when it limits our ability to function across a variety of areas (ie. physical, social, emotional, cognitive, vocational) that bring meaning to our lives. Here are some ways that dysfunctional exercise** might show up:

Compulsive exercise is described as a felt need, urgency or uncontrollable craving to exercise. The need to exercise and move can feel so strong that it doesn’t feel as though there is a choice to opt out or to take a rest day. If exercise is limited, the distress that is experienced as a result might feel overwhelming and unmanageable. In the context of an eating disorder, it might feel like no amount of exercise will ever be enough to satisfy the need. The eating disorder always wants a little bit more, a little bit longer, or a few more reps.
Compensatory exercise is marked by an attempt to compensate for what one has had to eat or drink. It’s the mentality of “exercising off” what has been consumed. In this case, exercise can play a role of punishment for “bad” or “unhealthy” dietary choices. It might also show up as an overemphasis on tracking caloric input and output.
Excessive exercise (sometimes referred to as over-exercise) is movement that is in excess of available energy, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Over time, if our bodies are working without sufficient energy (ie.without adequate rest and nutrition), they will start to adapt in an effort to conserve energy, which can result in various signs and symptoms of metabolic dysregulation, such as a bone stress injury, challenges in liver function, nutrient deficiencies, compromised heart function, digestive symptoms, changes in hair/skin or difficulty with cognitive processing.

While these descriptions are helpful for understanding the impact of exercise on our health, they aren’t perfect silos. Dysfunctional exercise might look like a mix of the above categories or have other characteristics. It might impact our relationships, academic focus, and time management. It might create stress, rather than helping to alleviate it.

And while the quantity of exercise is a helpful piece of the picture in determining health risk, quantity on its own doesn’t define dysfunction. Addressing the quality of exercise and movement is essential in determining its health impact. For example, an elite athlete might put in multiple hours at the gym while training for an upcoming competition, while also effectively supporting her performance with nutrition, rest, social engagement and mental health support. And at the same time, someone struggling with dysfunctional exercise might find it difficult to go for a 10-minute walk without harmful thoughts showing up.

Bottom line: if you desire to change the role of exercise in your life or you have concerns that exercise is playing a dysfunctional role, it’s never too early to seek support in creating that change. Reach out to an eating disorder-informed medical or mental health provider to start the conversation. And know that it’s possible and worth the effort to create and restore beneficial rhythms with exercise and movement.

*Source: “What Is Dysfunctional Exercise.” SEES,
**Dysfunctional exercise is not currently accepted as a mental disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV).

Lisa DeKam, PT is a physical therapist and the co-founder of The Axia Project, an organization dedicated to helping women know the truth that her worth is not based off the appearance of her body.

Connect with Lisa on Instagram

Learn more about The Axia Project on Instagram @theaxiaproject or on their website

You are not your body.

By: Maddy Blaedow

Who are you? As humans we shift and mold into various personalities or lifestyles. It makes it nearly impossible to determine how to respond to the question with just one answer. Whether it was choosing a path for college or a quarter life crisis, I am sure the question has arisen and has gone either answered or unanswered. What I have come to know is that I was placed on this Earth for a reason. The reason (amongst others) is to laugh and love and fill time with joy and gratitude. It is to share a smile with a stranger or buy the person next in line’s cup of coffee.When my mind is clouded with anxiety or insecurity, my attention turns inward. I do not notice the sunsets or the eclectic display of clouds in the sky. Perhaps due to old habits or unhealed wounds, I focus on my self image. As selfish as it sounds, a part of me feels it is easier to control how I look instead of face reality. I am conscious of the unhealthy pattern it yields and am continuously trying to change.

When I am faltering in my self image, I remind myself what is next to come. I look in the mirror and look for ways I can love myself, instead of reasons to hate what I see. These small actions help me to ground my self confidence and my identity in things that are not “body-centered”. I ask myself in times of doubt, “Is my goal to take up the least amount of space possible?”. There was a time where I might have considered that as an option, but I feel far removed from that former-self. The answer I proudly boast now is a resounding “no”.
I have found that my insecurities are a product of an outside source. They flourish when I am struggling. They nitpick the way my legs look in a certain pair of pants or tell me I am not good enough. Instead of investing my time in a destructive habit, I have intentionally stopped everything to identify where the ugly voice inside my head is coming from. Certainly, I would never tell myself that. Someone that I love and who has carried me near and far. Someone who has felt the loving embrace of grandparents, mothers and friends. Someone who has cried tears of joy and wiped away the sadness of a dear friend. Someone who worked as hard as she could to hold down a job, sport and full time school. Someone who represents strength and advocates for strength and justice for others. Someone who I am proud to identify myself with. Do all these insurmountable qualities boil down to how I appear in the mirror?
I am much more and so are you.

You are not being punished with your mental illness

By: Megan Ludke, DPT

Sometimes I feel like I’m being punished with my mental health struggles.

Yes I still struggle. I promote full recovery and 100% believe that to be true. I am recovered from an eating disorder, social anxiety, depression, and OCD. But I still have PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder).

For 2-10 days before my period, I’m not myself. I cry alot, get angry over little things, feel empty and lost, experience intense anxiety and many times don’t want to be alive.

And sometimes I feel like I’m being punished with the PMDD. I cry out to God about why I’m still struggling, I struggled for so many years. Spent years and years in therapy, support groups, doctors appointments, reading self help books, practicing coping tools, listening to podcasts, diving into the Bible and conquered many of the mental illnesses but PMDD is different. Trickier to treat, long lasting. And I wonder why I’m being punished. Did I do something wrong? Why isn’t God taking this pain away from me? Do I deserve to struggle with suicidal thoughts because the rest of my life is good?

But here’s the truth. God isn’t punishing you or testing you with your mental illness. God does not delight when His children are in pain or feeling hopeless. Our God is a God that sings joyful songs over us (Zephaniah 3:17), that loves us deeply, that knows every hair on our head, that sent His son so that we are never separated from Him, that gives us good gifts, that always welcomes us back into His arms.

Our God does not punish us with mental illness. Your struggle isn’t a result of a lack of faith or bad choices that you’ve made. Mental illnesses are complex biopsychosocial illnesses with many factors that cause them such as altered levels of neurotransmitters, a history of trauma, predisposing personality traits, genetics, sometimes unknown factors, and more.

This world is a fallen place, God designed it to be good, free of evil. Free of sickness and death and mourning. But sin entered this world because God gave us free will, free choice to make our own decisions. Sin has caused the world to become fallen. Sin has caused disasters, illnesses, and death to enter the world that God designed to be good and perfect.

Your struggle is not because of anything that you have done, you don’t deserve to have a mental illness. And speaking to myself with this statement as well, no one deserve to experience suicidal ideation, not one person.

God does promise to be by our sides, to turn everything for good for those that love Him, to wipe away all our tears.

Hold on to the truth today that you are not being punished. The truth that you did nothing to deserve your struggle. Hold on to the truth that God is right there next to you weeping when you weep, rejoicing when you rejoice. God wipes every tear from your eye. God loves loving you. And God is a good father.

With love,


The Grace Alliance has a wonderful study that can be done individually or with a small group on mental health recovery from a Biblical perspective.

Zephaniah 3:17- “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”

Psalm 34:18- “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

What’s it like to work with a dietitian?

By: Abby Olcott, MS, RD

I knew I wanted to become a dietitian after one spoke to my track team during my senior year of high school. I was fascinated by the science of food and how it worked in our bodies, and I’m glad I now get to use the knowledge I have to help fuel athletes without the nonsense of diet culture getting in the way. Speaking of diet culture, the very idea of a dietitian is not immune to its clutches. When most people think of dietitians, they may have a negative idea. Dietitians can be seen as the food police, telling you what to eat or what not to eat. If you have an eating disorder or have struggled with your relationship with food in general, seeing a dietitian can feel scary. This post is written to demystify the dietitian for you!

First, it’s important to define what a dietitian is. Nutritionists and dietitians are not one and the same. A dietitian is someone who has completed a bachelor’s (soon to be master’s) degree, an accredited nutrition and dietetics program, and a supervised internship. They also pass a board exam and are nationally registered. Compare that to a nutritionist, which is an unregulated term that anyone can claim. When working with eating disorders, dietitian are an important part of an interdisciplinary team that also includes doctors, therapists, coaches, nurses, athletic trainers, and more.

What does the work of an eating disorder focused dietitian encompass? There’s two main sides of our work as ED RDs: the practical side and the psychological side. Depending on where you are in your recovery process, one side may take precedence over the other. Let’s explore them a bit more!

The practical side of working with a dietitian involves nutritional rehabilitation and stabilization. Your dietitian will provide evidence-based recommendations, exercises, and education to promote adequate nutrition. Here are some of the practical things your dietitian may help you do:

  • Following an individualized meal plan to meet your body’s unique needs
  • Address any medical or physical problems you may be having and adjust nutrition recommendations as needed
  • Address behaviors or fears that come up around meal and snack times
  • Complete exercises to challenge you, such as fear food exposures
  • Provide relevant nutrition education, such as the function of different nutrients, nutrition needs for sport, metabolism, and supplements

The psychological side of working with a dietitian involves processing your relationship to food and body and exploring how to improve that relationship using various education and counseling techniques. Here are some of the topics you may address with your dietitian:

  • Food rules-their origin and how to challenge them
  • Motivators for recovery and following nutrition recommendations
  • What a healthy relationship with food looks like
  • Returning to exercise and how healthy movement may look for you in the future
  • Body image concerns
  • Nutrition myths from society and/or sport

Using evidence-based nutrition education and empathetic counseling, your dietitian’s goal is to help you heal your relationship to food and body and know how to fuel yourself appropriately. I love what I do because I see people’s lives transformed as they journey through recovery. Working with a dietitian can be part of that freedom with food all athletes deserve.

To connect with Abby, check out her links below!



Instagram: @energysportsdietitian