In January 1994, figure skater Nancy Kerrigan was clubbed in the knee in an attack orchestrated by rival Tonya Harding's associates, and the brutal injury affected the Olympic medalist's mental state as well as her physical health.
Kerrigan said that she felt like “everything else was really out of control at the time,” and began eating less and less as a result.
“I would avoid food because it was something I could do. I felt like I could control that and nothing else,” she said, admitting that to “some degree” she developed an eating disorder. “I don’t know why but that seemed like an accomplishment."
“I didn’t realize what I was doing. I lost a whole bunch of weight before competing because I was working out for hours,” Kerrigan explained. “It’s a lot of work. Then realizing, ‘Oh, I ate a banana today.’ ”
“I just started shrinking,” she continued. “I’d put on makeup differently to sort of hide that I was wasting away. Strangers would say, ‘Oh, that’s not enough food on your plate.’”
Kerrigan shared that during the Olympics, she would eat meals in the Olympic Village cafeteria with her manager, Jerry Solomon, because she felt so ostracized due to the attention surrounding the attack. Each time, Solomon would tell her to "'Just eat two more bites.' Every time. ‘Just two more bites.’”
The 47-year-old was eventually able to overcome her struggle after she noticed her son mimicking her behavior with food.
“But then I saw my son doing the same thing. He was, like, ‘No, no, no. I’m not hungry. I’m fine. I’m fine,’ ” she said. “I was, like, ‘Oh. Give me a piece of that pizza. I better eat that because he’s watching me and doing what I’m doing. I’m doing that again.’ I’m so thankful for a logical brain because it could’ve gone such a different route.”
Kerrigan is now doing her part to help others as a producer of the documentary Why Don’t You Lose 5 Pounds, which details the prevalence of eating disorders in athletes.
"It's a touchy subject," Kerrigan said, "but I think if we don't talk about it, the issue's going to continue."
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