Aleksandra Soldatova opens up about bulimia struggles
Four-time rhythmic gymnastics world champion says "I often have nightmares about weight" but has recovered and wants to help others
The four-time world champion said that she found herself obsessively monitoring her weight starting in 2017.
"Nobody ever told me I have problems with my weight but I was stuck on it since I was a child. I constantly weighed myself, and then I caught myself thinking that I was devoting too much time to this," she wrote. "I trained, weighed myself all the time, trying to drive away what I had eaten."
That overwhelming urge to weigh herself developed into a psychological battle as she fought her disorder.
Soldatova, who is also a three-time European champion, said that the toughest part about living with her eating disorder was being unable to share her fight with others.
"When you have an eating disorder, you live a double life. You train, you plough on, but at the same time you're fighting your inner demons.
"I was withdrawn all the time, I could not go out to eat with company, I went for walks alone and moved away from people.
"I tried to cope with this on my own for about two years and, in the end, after breaking my leg and missing the European Championships, I realised that I was destroying my body."
Recognising she could not overcome bulimia alone, Soldatova finally accepted that she had to open up.
"I could starve for several days," she wrote. "I understood I was on the brink and could not go further, then I found the courage and told my coach everything."
The gymnast put her sports career on hold last year to focus on getting better.
Admitting that it is a subject she does not like talking about, Soldatova nevertheless hopes others in the same situation will find inspiration and comfort in her story.
"Living with an eating disorder was scary. Talking about it is also unpleasant, but I do it in order to further help people cope with this. I know what it is like to feel lonely and think that you are the only one dealing with this."
Thanks to her friends – as well as professional help – Soldatova is now better.
"I was in the hospital twice. The first time I did not complete the treatment; I had to start everything anew. The second time I was treated thoroughly.
"I visited psychologists, and now we call each other once a week - I tell them how my day went. I can share something with this person, it is useful to have such people."
Among the things they share are Soldatova's recurring nightmares that she has somehow set herself back in her recovery.
"I often wake up with fear that I have breakdowns and similar nightmares, but these are only dreams."
But she is back on the path to returning to rhythmic gymnastics, with an eye on making the Russian team for the postponed Tokyo 2020 Games.
And after that? Soldatova hopes to give back.
"In the future, I would like to study to be a psychologist and to develop in this direction in order to help those faced with eating disorders."
Please consult professional experts if you are affected by any issues discussed in this article.