In high school, my daughter, Lisa, started losing weight and gaining compliments. Then it was a slippery slope to anorexia and bulimia, which involved over-exercising as well as purging. She still played soccer, as she had since first grade, but the joy had gone out of it.
As she wrote in our memoir, Hungry (Berkley Books, 2009): http://www.sheilahimmel.com
"I had soccer practice twice a week, which never wore me out. So, after practice I either went back to the gym or ran a few miles. I felt like a failure if I didn't burn at least eight hundred calories. I even left practice early to go to the gym. Occasionally I would cut class if I knew ahead of time that I would not be able to fit the gym in that day. Weight literally dripped off me like a melting ice cream cone. I had to have been losing three or more pounds a week but never really weighed myself. I could just tell by how my previously flattering pants hung on my boney hips and sagged, barely nearing my tiny legs. I went from a healthy size five to a size three but wanted to be a one, and then that turned into a zero and even a zero did not seem quite right. Eventually I got to double zero."
By that time, Lisa was not healthy enough to play soccer. She hardly left her room. Her team went to tournaments and she didn't even suit up, but sat miserably on the sidelines, not really even watching.
This month, a harrowing long haul later, Lisa is totally engrossed in the Soccer Women's World Cup. She is bummed to be missing live coverage of the USA-Japan final, but she'll be on a walk to benefit AIDS research.
If media attention, water-cooler chatter and the bank of TVs at the gym are indications, people on the AIDS walk will be getting updates on the game. The whole world is watching women's soccer.
To have my previously anorexic daughter back in motion -- jazzed about soccer and directing her energies to a good cause -- is indescribably wonderful. In future posts, she will write about her view of recovery.
I am also grateful that America and other nations are cheering healthy women athletes who play hard - as opposed to, say, stick figures in designer dresses. The stands are loaded with men, women and children painted like flags.
The USA coach, Pia Sundhage, who is Swedish, looks like a nice person, as does the French coach,
Bruno Bini, who employs poetry to rally the troops. And when the Japanese beat Sweden to reach the final, the team unfurled a giant banner thanking the world for support and help after the devastating earthquake and tsunami only four months ago.
In the semifinal, France came out blazing in the second half. They dominated possession and quickly scored. I almost turned it off, thinking maybe I'm bad luck, but I'd missed the USA-Brazil game that everyone was raving about. Could they do it again? Maybe the Brazil win had given them swelled heads. And they were tired. The French had had more rest.
After the exciting game, Wambach gracefully said, "First of all, I want to thank France, their team and their coach."
When have we seen such a confluence of positive role models? Play on, everyone.