Huge Thumbs Up to Crystal Nelson for Discussing Her Eating Disorder and a Call to Hear from Those Who Have Overcome Eating Disorders

October 21, 2015

A few weeks ago we started an important discussion on the message boards: “Finding the proper way to discuss eating disorders/women’s weight issues on”

The main consensus was this is a serious mental health issue that affects both women and men that needs to be discussed, at least in the abstract. Poster northernstar said it well when he/she posted, “One important reason why I think it is important for this type of thing to be discussed is so that we don’t implicitly tolerate eating disorders as a competitive running community.”

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Poster PinkRunningShorts37604 said a discussion on helped save her life:

“As a female collegiate athlete, and as someone who was once a female high school athlete, I think it’s important that eating disorders can be discussed on letsrun. Many programs, both at the high school and collegiate level, don’t allow for visibility of the issue. When it happens, it’s swept under the rug. On a team without any eating problems, often education on eating disorders isn’t offered out of fear that bringing the up topic will allow for its manifestation. Without information, it can seem like some of those really fast girls got abnormally thin by simply training to run abnormally fast. One might start to try to emulate their thinness hoping to join their super fast classification. When one sees some success, they try a bit harder. Suddenly, you have a girl with an eating disorder who thinks she’s just ‘trying hard’ because she’s ‘dedicated to her sport’. I think that’s a pretty typical format for eating disorder development. And, while letsrun doesn’t have a Huge female population, we do log on here. It saved my life and several additional hospital visits to see a thread debating about whether one of my idols had a health issue (eating disorder). It helped even more that, in addition to bringing up eating disorders, the thread contained several pages of comments talking about how bad eating disorders were. That discussion made me stop automatically thinking ‘I’ll be a few seconds faster next time if I can drop 2 more lbs’. Weight loss turned from a performance enhancer to a possible problem. The basement lurkers on letsrun actually made me start aiming to look strong instead of starved. Keep the eating disorder discussions up. Open forum.”

While there is debate as to how much talk should be allowed about specific individuals on the forums one thing is abundantly clear: the running community needs to be way more willing to discuss this issue.

Crystal Nelson at NCAAs XC Last Year

Crystal Nelson at NCAA XC Last Year

And with that in mind, we want to praise Crystal Nelson of Iowa State. Some of you may know Nelson for being a very good runner. She was 7th at NCAA cross country last year.

We want to praise her for being very public about her battle with depression and an eating disorder. The Iowa State paper did a lengthy profile on her earlier this fall, and Nelson has also blogged about her battle with depression.

Running fast is important to many of us, but there are a lot more important things in life than that.

When a prominent athlete such as Nelson steps forward publicly and says, “I have an eating disorder,” it raises awareness of the issue and prompts a public discussion. That in turn can help many more athletes overcome or avoid an eating disorder as they can recognize they are not alone and that there is help available to them.

Eating disorders do not help athletes succeed in the long term. Nelson is on the road to recovery, and that is what is most important. Iowa State coach Andrea Grove-McDonough showed the proper perspective when she told the Iowa State paper that “the most successful thing she will have done in coaching will be if Nelson graduates and gets in a good place and the two of them get through this.”

A huge thumbs up to Crystal Nelson for discussing her issue publicly and for Coach Grove-McDonough for supporting her.

We Want to Hear From You: With that in mind, we would like to hear from other athletes who have battled and hopefully overcome eating disorders or are still battling them. Sharing your stories (you can remain anonymous if you want) can only help others in the LRC community. Email us at

Resources: Thread: “Finding the proper way to discuss eating disorders/women’s weight issues on In the thread, Dillon Gracey, husband of pro Neely Spence-Gracey, talks about the issue from a close perspective.
From the thread: *The Victory Program from McCallum Place is a great resource for athletes with eating disorders McCallum Place has realized that the most effective treatment for an athlete with an eating disorder isn’t the same as what you might do for a non-athlete. For athletes, their sport must be used as a primary reward for positive behavior (eating more, diversifying diet, gaining weight).

Great Outside Read: THE SILENT SPORTS HEALTH CRISIS, FEMALE ATHLETE TRIAD Tons of attention is given to concussions in sport, how come so little is given to the female athlete triad (disordered eating, low bone density, and amenorrhea (the absence of menstruation))