Love. 15. 30. 40. Game point. These words and numbers filled my mind during the years I lived on the tennis court. I moved to the U.S. as a young teenager to play tennis, and after winning my first Grand Slam title at age 16, everything changed for me.
I wanted to stay on top, but the pressure I was under made me feel hopeless. I found comfort primarily in food, and it became my obsession.
Back on the court, I listened closely to my coaching team as I worked toward my goal. But after my work on the court was done for the day, I kept finding myself bingeing on food—whether it was cookies and chips or whatever was available to me.
There wasn’t anything my coaches suggested that I didn’t take to heart, but food was the one exception. I couldn’t stop.
I couldn’t understand how I could be so disciplined as an athlete but fail to control my eating.
In public, I had to keep up appearances. When I was with my friends and family, I was very self-conscious, so I watched what I ate and was cautious not to eat too much. It was when I was by myself that I found myself bingeing.
During these binges, I had difficulty controlling how much I ate and began to feel less and less control over these episodes once they started. The next day, I would feel guilty and ashamed.
As people started to take notice of my unhealthy relationship with food, I realized that I needed outside help. In the beginning, it was very difficult for me to talk about my binges, but I reached a point where I was ready to talk to a healthcare professional to learn more about what I was experiencing.
When I learned that binge eating disorder (B.E.D.) is a real medical disorder, it was a huge relief to me. It helped me to finally understand that it wasn’t about a lack of willpower, a quality I knew I had, particularly given my many successes on the court.
The first step in my journey toward managing my B.E.D. was coming forward and talking to my healthcare professional. We came up with a plan to manage my B.E.D. that worked best for me. Through the process, I became more open about my emotions overall and finally accepted how out of control I felt during my binges.
Going through this journey helped me to learn how to have a healthy relationship with food. I began to feel more comfortable with my eating behavior and sharing meals with family and friends.
I was surprised to learn that B.E.D. is the most common eating disorder in the U.S. And like with other eating disorders, B.E.D. doesn’t discriminate—it can affect people of all sizes and ethnicities.
Learning these facts about B.E.D. motivated me to publicly share my experience in February of last year through my partnership with Shire, and again this May for Mental Health Month.
I hope that my story will inspire adults who may be experiencing B.E.D. symptoms, as well as the healthcare professionals who may treat them, to know that a person with B.E.D. doesn’t have to look a certain way and that they are not alone.
It’s important for those who think they may be experiencing B.E.D. symptoms to take a first step by talking to a healthcare professional. Let me encourage you to take that first step toward getting help.
Monica Seles is a former professional tennis player who came forward to discuss her journey with binge eating disorder (B.E.D.). To learn more, visit BingeEatingDisorder.com.
More Must-Read Stories From TIME
- How an Online Pharmacy Sold Millions Worth Of Dubious COVID-19 Drugs — While Patients Paid the Price
- Why Literally Millions of Americans Are Quitting Their Jobs
- Meet the Women Participating in the Study That Could Change Future of Breast Cancer
- Inside the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of Tomorrow's Business Leaders
- An Innovative Washington Law Aims to Get Foreign-Trained Doctors Back in Hospitals
- Why the Ex-Husband of a Missing Chinese Billionaire Is Risking All to Tell Their Story
- Timothée Chalamet Wants You to Wear Your Heart on Your Sleeve