There were the mood swings and the extreme weight loss. There were the food restrictions, the recording of calories, and the logging of food followed by the obsessive work outs.
All the signs were there for Emily Jackson.
“All of which I ignored,” the Capital High School senior said. “I had convinced myself that I was okay, when I was not.”
Even though she neglected to acknowledge it, Jackson had been dealing with an eating disorder for several years. It wasn’t long before the symptoms became too severe for her to simply push things aside.
“I believe the first sign that there was something wrong was when I lost my period. From that spring month, I did not have a period for the next two years,” Jackson said. “After several months had gone by, my mom shared with me the conversation she had with a doctor she worked with. After a series of questions, they shared with me the possibility of an eating disorder.”
Soon after Jackson was placed into a facility that she said “required me to confront the eating disorder that I had.”
After a month she was transferred to The Emily Program, an organization which focuses on a personalized approach to eating disorder awareness, treatment, and lifetime recovery.
“Following that, I then went to an outpatient therapist that helped me continue my road to recovery,” Jackson said.
Jackson understands her road to recovery is not a sprint. It is a long haul, filled with peaks and valleys. It is a course that is simply not constantly turning left. The course winds, it is uneven, and sometimes extremely bumpy.
But if anyone can handle such a course, it’s Jackson, a three-year member of the Cougars girls cross country program and a 2017 state meet participant.
“I do not believe cross country helped me overcome my eating disorder,” Jackson said, “but what cross country has helped me with is staying in recovery. Cross country has provided me with the feeling of strength. Every day I am inspired by my teammates who give everything they have. I will be the first one to admit, running is not easy. It challenges a person physically and mentally, but after overcoming that challenge it feels like anything can be conquered. I am constantly amazed at what the human body can do. I know I need to fuel my body to feel my best.”
Jackson had little interest in turning out for the Capital cross country team as a freshman. That all changed when she met classmate Alina Chandra.
“Over the course of that school year, I learned more and more about the sport from Alina. I do not remember the interaction, but somehow I was introduced to Alina during lunch,” Jackson said. “From that moment on I would listen to her speak about the wonderful team.”
At the conclusion of her freshman year, Jackson was convinced to give the sport a go.
“Alina was not wrong. On the first day of summer practice, I was welcomed with open arms by the cross country team,” Jackson said. “The most appealing aspect of cross country running is being able to embrace with your team after a hard workout or a race. Knowing that you and the rest of your team gave everything they had. It’s an overwhelming feeling of astonishment, gratefulness, and beyond proud.”
During the past summer former Capital cross country coach Kevin Wright sent a message to each captain for the upcoming season, which included a link to an article about Running in Silence, a nonprofit organization committed to breaking misconceptions, heightening awareness, and making change in the athletic community for those at any body weight who struggle to speak up.
“After reading (the article),” Jackson said, “I knew our team had to participate.”
So, Jackson sent an email in hopes to receiving more information.
“Little did I know, that this message would be going directly to the creator of the organization, Rachael Steil,” Jackson said. “All throughout the summer, Rachael and I discussed ways that the girls cross country team at Capital High School could participate in spreading awareness about eating disorders in the athletic community.”
Jackson and her fellow Cougar captains threw out many proposals with, ultimately, the team deciding to include the Running in Silence logo on this year’s Capital Invite t-shirt with a percentage of the proceeds going to the organization.
“A common theme (in Jackson and our captains) seems to be an intense focus to be the best they can be and strong spirit of determination to overcome challenges and obstacles placed before them,” Capital cross country coach Danelle Wright said. “These are only a couple of traits that make them such amazing young ladies.”