New York Times OpEd: Female Athletes Face Crazy Expectations

By Elizabeth Carey

15 September 2018

When I met Melody Fairchild at Steens Mountain Running Camp in Oregon in 2006, I was a sub-elite runner in the throes of recovery from disordered eating, exercise bulimia and distorted body image. As a Division I student-athlete, I’d wrestled with what collegiate coaches, peers and, well, every magazine told me about thin and athlete-specific ideals. Plagued with injuries, I had osteopenia, the precursor to osteoporosis; amenorrhea, the absence of menstruation; and depression — all consequences of what’s now recognized as Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport, or RED-S, a condition that impairs physiological functioning.

I clung tightly to a cultural narrative — be thin, be fast — because it seemed simple. It clear-cut an apparent path to success through the messy thicket of my life.

But Fairchild questioned it. She addressed high school girls and camp staff and asked, “What makes you happy?”

The answer, I’ve discovered, is Fairchild’s secret sauce. It is neither how an athlete’s body looks nor sky-high expectations, but what she calls the fire in the athlete’s belly. With that, she and others redefine success.

Read Carey’s full OpEd in the New York Times.