An Unlikely Antidote to Anorexia with Becky Fox PH161
“My journey to finding myself and my will to live began with finding CrossFit.”- Becky Fox
The stress of everything was just too much. If she could just lose weight, Becky believed, she would be okay. She drastically cut her calories, restricted food intake and began exercising incessantly. A sophomore in high school, she succeeded only in losing athletic opportunities, a sudden drop in academic performance, and seclusion in her social life.
As her eating disorder consumed her, Becky would constantly think about how many calories she had eaten and how many hours she would need to spend in the gym to work them off. Friends and family became alarmed by her obsession with food and her sudden outbursts, and Becky sought help from a therapist, but it wasn’t enough.
Becky’s health continued to decline, and her bloodwork showed it. Her heart was not able to keep up with her physical state. Doctors stripped exercise from her, forbidding even recreational walks. Soon, depression, suicidal thoughts and self-harm replaced the physical activity Becky had once loved.
Becky’s sister had been by her side throughout her ordeal, and she knew just how important athletics were to Becky. Her sister had heard there was a CrossFit affiliate in their hometown, and hoped it might be a place Becky could go to work out safely and rebuild her self-esteem. “It sounded crazy at the time, putting an anorexic girl who had an addiction to exercise into a gym setting again. Little did I know that a box is very different than the typical gym.”
Becky came to an agreement with her family that if she met her calorie intake goal for the day, she would be permitted to attend a class. “I was hesitant. It was higher calories than I had in about a year, but I wanted fitness back in my life.”
Her first class was terrifying. Becky had developed extreme social anxiety and felt uncomfortable anytime she was away from home. But soon, she found she had a new home. “I could be myself and not worry about what anyone thought. The coaches were patient, everyone was kind, and no one treated me differently even though they could see every vein in my body. It gave me a reason to be OK eating again, fueling my body so I could work out later.”
As time passed, Becky developed close friendships with other members at her box, conquered her fear of food, and returned to a healthy weight. But her battle with eating disorders wasn’t over yet.
“I was always told in recovery that another eating disorder could hit me at any time and it would be something I would have to fight my whole life. Being as stubborn and strong-willed as I am, I never thought that would be me.”
2 years after she started CrossFit, Becky found the pendulum swinging the other way, this time towards binge eating. During the worst of her anorexia, Becky would have a small snack in the middle of the night to help calm her hunger pains and allow sleep. Although her body had returned to a healthy weight, her brain still turned to this old habit as a stress and anxiety reliever.
Becky’s midnight snacks grew to out-of-control binges, sometimes exceeding 2,000 calories a night. She feared her weight gain would be noticeable so she started restricting during the day, which only fed the cycle. Her depression returned with a vengeance, she lacked the motivation to work out, and found it embarrassing to be around her friends from her box.
Once again, Becky’s sister was at her side to help. They moved in together so that her sister could help her control the nighttime binges, even locking food up when it became necessary to break the habit. It was a long road back to a healthy weight as Becky sought to move at a slow pace that would be sustainable for the long term and not mirror her old anorexic ways. Once again, her commitment to fitness and her community helped her overcome her demons.
These days, Becky remains very active with her box, and even married one of the owners! She recently graduated and is helping others as a school counselor. She is a firm advocate for the physical, mental, and social benefits of CrossFit.
“I have had to learn so much about balance through this process and just how important it is in our lives. I have also learned a lot about how important finding self-worth is and not tying it to my body. My body, my weight, my looks do not determine how good of a friend I am or how academically smart I am or how good of an athlete I am. My body is not just to be seen but to be used. CrossFit gave me new goals, and PR's helped me to see my progress and make the journey to recovery worth it. I was getting better, getting stronger, and finding myself, my confidence, and my worth. I cannot thank CrossFit enough because it literally saved my life.”
I first heard Becky's story some time ago, and I think it will resonate with so many women (and men!) who find a new respect and admiration for their bodies when they focus on what it can do, rather than what it looks like. I was excited to have a chance to catch up with her to learn more about how CrossFit helped her overcome her eating disorders, how we can support others who are struggling, and how she's using her experiences to help others in her new role as a counselor.
In this episode we discuss:
- The factors that played into Becky developing an eating disorder
- How she realized her relationship with food was unhealthy
- Becky’s advice on the best ways to approach a family or friend with an eating disorder
- How she was able to safely reintroduce exercise into her routine
- The importance of trying multiple nutritionists and counselors to find the right fit for you
- How Becky’s calorie restriction turned into binge eating at night
- Why community support was so important for helping Becky to heal from her eating disorder
- Using intuitive eating to establish a healthy relationship with food
- Using self care to overcome the self-hatred she experienced with her disorder
- What Becky’s life looks like today
- How her own experiences help her as a school counselor and a CrossFit coach
- Characteristics of CrossFit that led Becky to feel like CrossFit saved her life
- How Becky found the right balance for working out at an appropriate volume
- Three things Becky does on a regular basis that have the biggest positive impact on her health
- One thing she knows would have a positive impact on her health, but she struggles to implement
- What a healthy life looks like to Becky
If you like this episode, please subscribe to Pursuing Health on iTunes and give it a rating. I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below and on social media using the hashtag #PursuingHealth. I look forward to bringing you future episodes with inspiring individuals and ideas about health every other Tuesday.
Disclaimer: This podcast is for general information only, and does not provide medical advice. We recommend that you seek assistance from your personal physician for any health conditions or concerns.
This post was originally published on September 14, 2020.