Monica Seles is one of the top tennis players of the nineties. However, at the peak of her career she gained unwanted media attention for her fluctuating weight.
She battled with binge eating disorder as she struggled with the pressures of life of an athlete, trauma of stabbing by a deranged fan and her father’s battle with cancer.
The tennis ace started playing at an early age of five, under her father’s guidance, while growing up in Yugoslavia. She turned pro at the age of 14, and was the youngest tennis player to win every Gran Slam tournament at the time.
By the age of 16, Monica made history by becoming the youngest winner in French Open and soon topped the charts and became the youngest number-one woman player.
She was a tiny size 6 back then and looked quite athletic. However, she had to soon pay the price for her success. In 1993, during a match in Hamburg, Germany, the star was attacked by a fan obsessed with one of her opponents.
The attacker stabbed Seles with a boning knife between the shoulder blades, pushing her off the sport for 2 years to recover physically. However, the mental trauma was much deeper than the physical injury and she plunged into depression.
In her book, “Getting a Grip: On My Body, My Mind, My Self,” Monica reveals that during her time away from tennis, she gained 20 pounds owing to her the binge eating disorder.
Shortly after her recovery, her father passed away of cancer. Monica fell deeper into darkness, and gained another 17 pounds as she found comfort only in food.
She confesses that she was just uncontrollable. ‘My binges would be potato chips, pretzels and cookies – bags of them. It’s really eating huge quantities of food in a very short period of time’, Monica said.
She hired professional Olympic trainers and nutritionists to help her lose weight and stop eating. She bought every book on diet and tried every trick.
But after intense training of 6 hours everyday, she found herself eating bags of junk food and would lie to her trainers and nutritionist. She would order from restaurants late in the night and order room service in hotels, while training so hard during the day.
Monica was under the pressure to win and look good, while internally she struggled with the disorder, depression and unhappiness.
She was uncomfortable in her body and media comments made it worse. As her weight fluctuated on court and eating went out of control, she faced another injury and had to stop playing for a while as her foot was in a cast for 3 months.
That was the lowest point in her life and the injury turned out to be a turning point in her life. She threw away all the books and fired all the nutritionists. She decided to turn away from the word diet and focus on healing from inside out.
She started eating every single food group to keep her cravings at bay, but would eat only whole unprocessed food. She loved food and good meal and getting rid of experts and counting calories helped her emotionally and gave her the much needed break from the tight schedule.
Slowly she lost the extra 37 pounds and gained control of her binge eating. Over the course of the year off from tennis, she gave herself time to grieve for her father. She took baby steps to healing and started doing things outside her comfort zone.
She was eating non-processed food and enjoying the taste and didn’t have to control the portion. Now, instead of the love-hate relationship with food, she now once again could love food.
She returned to the sport and was elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2009.
Now that she is comfortable speaking about her disorder, she wants to help out others, and made public service announcement for the Binge Eating Disorder Association and National Eating Disorders Association.
She decided to do the campaign to spread awareness and help people realize that it is a real medial condition that needs attention.
Our body is not only the result of physical activity and training, but also a reflection of our emotions and what we eat. You sometimes need to stop tormenting your mind and body and listen to yourself.
Start focusing on the inside and you will be surprised with the results you see on the outside.