Eat, Pray, BJJ Living with an Eating Disorder
“And, what's more, this 'precious' body, the very same that is hooted and honked at, demeaned
both in daily life as well as in ever existing form of media, harassed, molested, raped, and, if all
that wasn't enough, is forever poked and prodded and weighed and constantly wrong for eating
too much, eating too little, a million details which all point to the solitary girl, to EVERY solitary
girl, and say: Destroy yourself.” Emilie Autumn
In 2011, 20 Million Women and 10 Million Men suffered from some form of eating disorder in their life in the US alone: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/get-facts-eating-disorders. This should make you think. At what point did we become our own worst enemy, a good work out become torture, and the man in the mirror become unrecognizable. So much of our confidence depends upon how we see ourselves. BJJ athlete, Lisette De La Cruz (Pinnacle MMA/GFT, SATX) has struggled since the age of 13 with Anorexia Nervosa/Athletica subtype restrictive (a loss of appetite for food, limits caloric intake, excessive exercising) and Exercise Bulimia (compulsive exercising). Her battle is far from over 10+ years later. Thankfully, her family and BJJ keep her grounded during her struggle. De La Cruz, a trained dancer, began her BJJ a year ago after tagging along to watch her boyfriend for the last three years. She already had her own exercise regimen of circuit training and boxing. The more BJJ she watched, the more she wanted to try it. Eventually she traded her sprints and gloves for shrimps and gis. De La Cruz is fighting an uphill battle that so many suffer from and unfortunately lose. According to the statistics at: http://www.anad.org/get-information/about-eatingdisorders/eating-disorders-statistics/ “Women are much more likely than men to develop an eating disorder. Only an estimated 5 to 15 percent of people with anorexia or bulimia are male. 20% of people suffering from anorexia will prematurely die from complications related to their eating disorder, including suicide and heart problems.”
The one thing that the small framed De La Cruz has in her favor is her perseverance, her ability to be open and honest about what she is going through, and her amazing attitude. She also has the most outstanding support system. Her boyfriend Alex Garcia, and her family stand by her every step of the way to ensure that even if she slips, they are right there encouraging her to get back up. Her struggles will never be behind her but with her mindset, she knows exactly how to deal with what she faces. She is an inspiration. De La Cruz discussed how her disease has affected her stamina with BJJ and she is actively working on that. Her muscles get so easily fatigued that immediately after training she just passes out. Another issue comes when she doesn’t train and feels guilty so she wants to restrict food intake to compensate. The cycle is one that repeats. She makes conscious efforts not to restrict her eating every day and she ensures that she eats before a training session to guarantee she will not feel burnt out during and after a class. These are conditions that can set the tone for her entire day or week.
More statistics on why this is common behavior for individuals with eating disorders across the board are elucidated on at: http://www.anad.org/get-information/about-eating-disorders/eating-disordersstatistics/ “Almost 50% of people with eating disorders meet the criteria for depression. Only 1 in 10 men and women with eating disorders receive treatment. Up to 24 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder (anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder) in the U.S. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. An estimated 10-15% of people with anorexia or bulimia are male. Men are less likely to seek treatment for eating disorders because of the perception that they are “woman’s diseases.” In judged sports – sports that score participants – prevalence of eating disorders is 13% (compared with 3% in refereed sports) A comparison of the psychological profiles of athletes and those with anorexia found these factors in common: perfectionism, high self- expectations, competitiveness, hyperactivity, repetitive exercise routines, compulsiveness, drive, tendency toward depression, body image distortion, preoccupation with dieting and weight.”
The tiny dancer is aware of all the risks she faces with BJJ, watching those around cutting weight, dieting, and constantly weighing themselves for competition. She chooses to focus more on herself and the things that she needs to work on. She does not use scales at all, if forced to at a medical appointment she steps on it backwards. She has no intention of cutting weight, her size and frame alone will guarantee she will never need too. Dieting plays into her disease and would be a major setback for her. Instead of focusing on the things that she can’t do she focuses on the things she can. Her dancing background gives her an amazing advantage in BJJ. The flexibility she has is remarkable. She often catches on to drills as if she has been training 4 or 5 years. She can watch once or twice and just like the steps in an intricate dance routine, she puts it into practice until she perfects her position. Since De La Cruz began her BJJ journey, she is in a healthier state of mind. Her desire to keep up with her training motivates her even more to eat and exercise in order to maximize her training sessions. She is in a better place and has found her happy. After an extended break from dance, she is even instructing students again. Her war will never be over but for now, her battle has been won.
"Your body is precious. It is our vehicle for awakening. Treat it with care." Buddha