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Dan Istitene/Getty Alice Merryweather
Alice Merryweather is rediscovering the joy in two important parts of her life: skiing and eating.
The Olympic skier, 24, is now in recovery after entering inpatient treatment for an eating disorder, after she developed anorexia at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. One year ago, Merryweather, a member of the 2018 Olympic ski team, watched her main focus in life disappear as the World Cup ski circuit shut down.
"When the pandemic first set in, I didn't feel like I had much control over being able to push myself. … So taking control of my diet and of my intake was kind of that way to feel like I wasn't being complacent, like I was still trying to be the best version of myself," she told the Washington Post.
Merryweather decided to concentrate on weight loss during the pandemic, aiming to lose 10 lbs. to 140 lbs., despite that number being ten pounds below her ideal weight for skiing down mountains. And when she showed up for a training camp in September, Merryweather was well below that weight, at 128 lbs. She was also tired, had lost her joy for the sport and couldn't keep up with her teammates.
Roy Rochlin/Getty Alice Merryweather in Oct. 2019
"I felt like I'd lost all my love for the sport of ski racing," she wrote in a letter before she entered treatment, and posted to her Instagram in December. "I was always exhausted, I was distant from my teammates and coaches, and I lacked joy in nearly everything I did."
U.S. Ski Team doctors were concerned about her weight loss, and sent her to eating disorder specialists who diagnosed her with anorexia.
"That kind of blew me away," Merryweather told the Post. "Like, what? There's no chance. I would never do that to myself. I don't have that!"
But at another training camp in November, Merryweather again struggled to keep up with her teammates, and doctors and her coach urged her to go to an inpatient facility to treat her anorexia.
Tom Pennington/Getty Alice Merryweather at the 2018 Winter Olympics
"I didn't really realize I had a problem for a long time," she said. "My moods were all over the place. I would have these really intense swings where I'd be feeling fine, and then a switch would flip and I would get really angry or upset at something small. I was always cold. I was so tired all the time, and I would just break down almost every day."
Merryweather agreed to skip the winter ski season, and checked in for six weeks of treatment. In January, she posted on Instagram that she had completed the program.
"My recovery is far from over, but the first big step is done," she said. "… I am continuing to take my recovery day by day, but it feels dang good to be putzing around on skis again."
Speaking to the Post in March, Merryweather said that she struggled at first with missing out on the ski season and World Cup races, but she has regained her love of skiing.
"I've enjoyed feeling that kind of jealousy and sadness because I think it fuels my passion to get back," she said. "I've definitely fallen back in love with skiing so hard over the last two months." She's also enjoying food again: "I'm back to eating bread, and it's wonderful."
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Merryweather added that she's learned to appreciate her body over the last few months, and hopes others struggling can do the same.
"I want people everywhere, especially female athletes, to remember how incredible their bodies are, that they allow us to live day in and day out, and to do some pretty incredible stuff," she said. "I've been practicing a lot of gratitude for my body and what it does for me, and that's been a big step along my path toward self-acceptance."
And she excited to get back in the start gate soon and prepare for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. "I fully intend to be racing at those Olympics," she said.
If you or someone you know is battling an eating disorder, please contact the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) at 1-800-931-2237 or go to NationalEatingDisorders.org.