This May 15th article from the CrossFit Games page really struck a chord with me. As a woman, I know that the battle of what to eat and how little of it to consume is the focus of many ladies out there. The truth is that being obsessed with looking thin and living up to society’s standard of beauty gets dangerous… life threatening, even. Take for example this empowering story of Emma Moburg-Jones. This former anorexic found CrossFit, and successfully replaced a negative addiction with a positive one.
From Thin to Fit – An Anorexic’s Story
Three years ago, Aaron Moburg-Jones dragged the skeletal frame of his anorexic sister to CrossFit—and helped turn her life around.
Emma Moburg-Jones struggled with anorexia for three years. She restricted her food intake to below what was necessary to fuel her body, and then burned every calorie on her eight-mile morning runs. Standing at 5’7”, Emma weighed just 105 pounds —up from 93.
At this point, Emma knew she had an eating disorder and decided that she wanted out. But she was struggling to break free of the anorexic thinking. “I was in the middle of transitioning, or at least trying to go through the motions on my way to becoming a normal person with normal eating habits, but my thinking was exactly the same,” Emma says.
Emma still wanted to be thin and she feared muscle, so she continued to cater her exercise and diet toward thinness rather than health. She eschewed Aaron’s recommendations to incorporate CrossFit into her running, and focused solely on burning calories.
Discovering CrossFit, and Muscles
It wasn’t until she attended a free CrossFit workout in the park that things began to change. That day, Emma got her “ass kicked by everyone.” It jolted her. She had worked so hard for her body — she was a runner and therefore an athlete in her mind — so she was shocked to realize she wasn’t fit.
“I am a competitive person,” Emma explains. Being tested publicly and falling behind was exactly what she needed start the change in earnest. “I wanted to win … and getting my ass kicked motivated me more than anything.
“Slowly, over the next year, as I watched these badass CrossFit women train, my mindset started to change. I wanted to be like them. I wanted to be stronger. I wanted to be bigger. And I realized that muscles were actually sexy, not manly.”
Focusing her competitive drive on CrossFit has helped Emma break free from her eating disorder. To keep from getting her ass kicked at every workout, Emma has started thinking, eating, and exercising differently. When she ate well, she did better. If she returned to poor eating, she’d fall behind. CrossFit challenged her to change, gave her a new focus, and offered her a tangible way to track how she was doing on the road to health and fitness.
Now, just three years later, Emma Moburg-Jones owns CrossFit So ILL and will compete in the 2011 North Central Regional. Anorexia is a serious medical condition with a low recovery rate. Emma’s return to health is remarkable, but particularly since she has found that the addition of CrossFit has not only helped her get out of the disordered thinking about food, but has also helped her stay on track and avoid relapse. Emma has come far, however, the road to recovery wasn’t easy or without setbacks. This is a glimpse of her journey.
Slipping Back Into Obsessive Eating
Soon after joining CrossFit, Emma‘s trainers recommended she try the Zone Diet. Although the diet has worked for many CrossFitters, Emma found that weighing and measuring, and “cheat days” brought her back into her disordered eating behaviors and thinking.
“It was the Zone that started to get me in trouble,” Emma says. “I was in transition at the time — no longer starving myself, but trying to eat at least a bit throughout the day without obsessing about exactly how much I was eating, but the Zone told me that it was time to go back to doing that.”
The Zone diet didn’t help Emma because it refocused her attention on quantities of food. Many people who have suffered from anorexia have obsessed about calories and quantities, and may find it hard to weigh and measure without returning to obsessive thinking, or over-control.
“I tried it for a bit, counting every almond, weighing my deli meat to the exact right amount of blocks,” Emma explains, “but I started to feel some old thinking creeping back in.” Once again, she started to feel herself, “Needing to control and account for every calorie, and trying to delay gratification by eating all of by blocks at one time in the evening (i.e. binging).” The Zone triggered Emma’s eating disorder, but fortunately she changed course and tried another approach to eating.
Next, Emma tried intermittent fasting, but without any luck. Emma found that intermittent fasting allowed her to return to a “full blown eating disorder” behavior that she could disguise as a health-based regimen. After her struggles with intermittent fasting, Emma strongly suggests that no trainer recommend this diet to an athlete with a history of eating disorders.
Finding a Balance with Nutrition
Finally, she found success with Paleo. Emma says the Paleo diet helped shift her focus from controlling quantity to quality.
Freed from counting calories or measuring blocks, Emma now simply thinks of eating clean and getting her body fuel. This allows her to bypass anything that may trigger obsessive thinking and over-control. Now, Emma keeps the quantity of food that she eats checked and balanced by her performance on the workouts. Additionally, by following Paleo most, but not all, of the time she allows in enough “cheats” that she no longer feels the urge to binge.
Dealing with Addictions
Greg Glassman believes that, “You can’t get over addictions, but you can get new ones.” For many, CrossFit is that new addiction.
We’ve seen it before. Dan Tyminski, who is ranked 6th worldwide at the end of the Open, struggled with an addiction to heroine just two years ago. Now, he endorses the motto, “F*** Drugs, Do CrossFit.”
Emma sees CrossFit as her first healthy addiction. “I have an addictive personality,” she says, “I need something to obsess about. When I was a teenager, it was illegal drugs, then it was food, and now it’s CrossFit.”
When asked if she believes her “addiction” to CrossFit can weather life’s challenges, Emma responds confidently that she believes it can. She says CrossFit has done more than simply distract her from underlying issues, but has taught her how fix some of her problems and redirect her energy toward positive goals.
“No matter what happens now, even if CrossFit became illegal, I would continue in the fitness industry or sports somehow,” Emma says. “Health and fitness has become such a huge part of my life, I know that I will never need anything else to replace it.”
“Is it a flaw that I’m an addict? Absolutely. However, as long as I am addicted to something that does not hurt me or others, I’d say it’s a pretty good flaw to have.”
Buy-in: 3 rounds of – 5 inchworms, 10 walking lunges, 15 kettlebell swings
This is one of the original named CrossFit workouts and is a great test of legs and lungs (in addition to being on our in-gym leaderboard). Make sure to measure your effort on the rows so that the deadlifts and box jumps go smoothly!
3 rounds for time of:
- 500m row
- 12 deadlifts @ bodyweight
- 21 box jumps (20″ for girls and guys)
Zone 3: scale deadlifts to 75% of bodyweight
Zone 2: scale deadlifts as needed
Zone 1: modify wod as needed
Games Prep: This is a tester, give it a good push
Cash-Out: Band shoulder joint stretches
- attach band up high (pull-up bar)
- move each shoulder through a large ROM, pausing to create moderate traction on the joint
- 2-3 min per shoulder