Canadian Athlete Shares Battle With Mental Health


Canmore based Biathlete and Cross Country skier Erin Yungblut has shared part of her story with readers of Nutters Newsletters in past, but not this part of her story.

In her mid twenties, Erin would appear to be the ultimate example of young female athlete competing on the international stage. What the world didn’t know until now, is that Erin struggles with body dysmorphia, a mental condition where an individual spends excessive amounts of time worrying about perceived flaws in their appearance.

A racing accident in Europe in early 2018 brought the condition to the forefront as Erin recovered from surgery; “I watched my upper body muscles melt away from disuse, and felt my lower body muscles growing in the gym and on the bike. I saw that I could be happier, stronger and let go of my obsession with what my body looked like’.

Looking back Erin now realizes that she was dealing with body dysmorphia on some level since she was 18; ‘Before this past spring I always looked in the mirror and saw what was lacking from my body, or what there was too much of. I Had a warped view of reality”.

Extreme behaviour developed over time as Erin believed she needed to be leaner to be faster and that she needed lower body fat levels in order to ski well. Erin recalls weighing herself daily, monitoring body fat percentages, using spreadsheets to track her carbs, fats, protein and total calories.

Ultimately Erin reached out and sought assistance from her coaches, sports psychologists and a nutritionist. She also enjoyed the full support of her biathlon team-mates and family members.

Erin is recovering with a focused plan to return her body to a healthier place that includes eating more at every meal, snacking during workouts, and isn’t nearly as stressed about the perfect diet.

Erin believes that becoming an endurance athlete was a significant factor in developing body dysmorphia; ‘Dedicated athletes will do whatever it takes to be the best. It is not hard to want to make your body perfect when using it daily as a machine.’ Erin considers herself fortunate for a number of reasons; ‘I consider myself lucky to be facing this fundamental flaw in my character, and working to overcome it to be a better person, not only a better athlete’.

By sharing her story, her experience with body dysmorphia, Erin hopes she can make a positive difference for other athletes and sportspeople in general; ‘Part of the legacy I need to create in sport is around this issue. I want female athletes in particular who feel pressured to be lean and light, to learn from my story. I want to show them that it is possible to come back from a dark place. I am proving it is possible.’

Erin Yungblut is a Canmore based Biathlete and Cross Country Skier. Nutters proudly sponsors Erin’s athletic career efforts.
Photo credit : Doug Stephen.

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