Elite Runner’s Book Tells How Athletics Can Be A Cover For Eating Disorders

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Lize Brittin collapses after winning the women's division of the Pikes Peak Ascent at age 16. Photo: Courtesy of Lize Brittin

Lize Brittin collapses after winning the women’s division of the Pikes Peak Ascent at age 16. Photo: Courtesy of Lize Brittin

Many people think they know what an eating disorder looks like. When they see someone unhealthily thin or overweight, it is easy to make offhanded comments suggesting those people are anorexic or overeating. However, that is far from the case.

Estimates suggest only 1 in 10 people who live with an eating disorder will seek treatment in their lifetime, while the vast majority privately struggle with their illness. There are several reasons for this, including the stigma surrounding eating disorders. But, many also hide their eating disorder and isolate themselves from support structures likely to help them through the rough road of recovery

One of the most common ways people with eating disorders hide their condition is through exercise and athletic activities such as sports or running. By participating in these activities known to help people stay in shape, people with eating disorders can avoid scrutiny about their low weight and disordered eating habits.

That is how Lize Brittin lived with anorexia from her teen years to the age of 30, when she was rushed to the hospital weighting 80 pounds and experiencing seizures. Lize was a competitive runner who hid her eating disorder under marathons and several mile-long races. For years, she struggled with restricting food intake and maintaining the strength to keep running, but it wasn’t until she found herself near death in a hospital bed that she realized how severe her disorder had become.

Lize was lucky to survive. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, 12 times higher than the death rate associated with all causes of death for females between 15 and 24-years-old. After her brush with death, Lize realized she had to make changes if she hoped to live much longer and began her path to recovery.

Over a decade later, Lize Brittin is telling her story in hopes of bringing attention to how common eating disorders are in athletics and the dangers they pose. Her new book, “Training on Empty: A frank memoir of an elite runner who nearly perished from anorexia” shares the long, difficult story of how she developed anorexia, how she survived, and how she began to heal.

You can read an excerpt from the book on Competitor.com. Brittin says she hopes her book will help readers develop “a better understanding of eating disorders and a sense of hope that recovery is possible.”

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