My name is Miranda DiBiasio and I am a former collegiate athlete from George Washington University, where I earned both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Exercise Science.
As a competitive runner for nearly eleven years, I have been through a lot. During my years of collegiate running, I struggled with disordered eating, amenorrhea, and lowered bone density; the classic Female Athlete Triad, as well as numerous musculoskeletal injuries as a result of overtraining and under-fueling.
When I was 10 years old I was diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and Panic Disorder. At just 11 years old, I was medicated for these mental health disorders. This was the same age I began running competitively as a middle school student. Over time, I found running was a healthy outlet for my OCD and anxiety, helping me to better manage my symptoms. I found myself experiencing fewer panic attacks and intrusive thoughts. When I was experiencing symptoms, I would go for a run and immediately feel better. Running became my saving grace.
Unfortunately, shortly after beginning my athletic career as a collegiate athlete, I fell down the rabbit hole of diet culture and began to believe that in order to be faster, I needed to be thinner and lighter. I began heavily regulating my food intake, cutting out certain foods, and rapidly lost weight I could not afford to lose. I was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa at age 20, though I displayed classic symptoms of Orthorexia Nervosa, as I was obsessed with eating only “healthy” or “clean” foods. I sought outpatient treatment on and off throughout the duration of my undergraduate career, but I continued to run and believe that I did not need help and that what I was doing was in the best interest of my performance.
During my senior year, I suffered a severe stress fracture as a result of many years of malnutrition coupled with overtraining. I had never gotten a period, despite being 21 years old. This injury was the catalyst for my journey to true recovery. I could no longer deny that I was unhealthy. I needed to address this issue immediately if I wanted to protect my health and enjoy exercising for the rest of my life. This injury was also the catalyst for my passion for helping other athletes who may be struggling with eating pathology (including symptoms of or clinically diagnosed eating disorders). I began to realize how many athletes, both women, and men, struggled with body image, disordered eating, and eating disorders. Sadly, I was nowhere near alone in my struggles, especially as an athlete competing in a sport where a thinner body is idealized.
Navy Invitaional Cross Country at the Naval Academy Golf Club in Annapolis, Md. Photo by Molly Riley
I was driven to take action. For my thesis project as a graduate student earning my Master’s in Exercise Science, I completed a systematic review of how coaches influence eating pathology in athletes. My review, “Coach Influence on Eating Pathology in Athletes: A Systematic Review” has been fine-tuned and submitted for publication to the International Journal of Eating Disorders.
I also have created a research-based website dedicated to educating young distance runners about injury prevention through appropriate training, adequate nutrition, and strength training, with the goal of educating other runners about topics I wish I knew more about as a young athlete. I have used my website, Striding for Balance, as a platform for sharing other stories about athletes who have struggled with disordered eating, eating disorders, and other mental health issues. Striding for Balance is dedicated to emphasizing the importance of a balanced approach to training and nutrition to prevent injury, illness, and burnout and continues to cultivate my passion for athlete mental and physical wellbeing. I share my own story in detail, as I have learned how powerful vulnerability can be for helping others recover.