I recently picked up a copy of Monica Seles’ book Getting a Grip: On My Body, My Mind, My Self.In it she talks s he talks very openly and candidly about her biggest opponent, and it’s not something or someone she faced on the tennis court. But it was a battle that began to destroy her sense of self, her career and her life. The opponent was food.
Monica Seles is best known for her incredible talent on the tennis court as a former World No. 1 player. She won nine Grand Slam championships and was the youngest player ever to win the French Open. Earlier this month she was even inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame. But with all of the wins, trophy’s and accolades Monica struggled for years with her weight, yo-yo dieting and overeating.
Little did I know (nor did anyone else know) that Monica struggled with binge eating for 9 years. She was someone who – literally – was at the top of her game, but inside she was fighting another battle. She was struggling with self-doubt, self-hatred, fear and sadness that many of us can relate to.
The book is written from two sides which are nicely intertwined. In one, she provides a very detailed, real view into the life of a tennis pro: the travel, tournaments, competition, preparation, and the pace. She recounts different matches and stories of her travels around the world. As I’m someone who enjoys watching tennis, it was quite interesting for me to get an insider’s view of the sport.
But the other story in her book is about a person no different than you or me. A person who suffered with a lack of control over food because of unresolved emotional issues.
When Monica was at the top of her tennis game she was stabbed during a match in Germany. Her injuries healed, but emotionally she was still hurting. Then her beloved father, who was also her coach and biggest fan, was diagnosed with cancer and eventually the disease took his life. Monica turned to food for comfort, solace, and as a way to get over the inner pain. It was almost like a best friend, something that was always there for her.
In her book Monica talks very openly and candidly about these struggles. Everything from raiding the hotel mini bar, to sneaking out in the middle of the night to get fast food. But her struggle isn’t just about eating too much…
At times Monica would spend weeks and months dieting, watching diligently everything she ate, and even hired personal trainers to get her into shape. She would spend hours at the gym but then come home and have a 3,000 calorie binge. Along would come the feelings of shame and guilt, followed by days or weeks of deprivation to make up for it. Then the cycle would start all over again.
This yo-yo cycle went on for years, and in the book Monica lets down her guard and is extremely honest, open, and vulnerable telling us her deepest feelings. What’s more, there is no self-pity or “woe is me” attitude.
In the book she talks about the steps she took to take back control of her eating, her food — and her life. Like anyone who overeats too often or has a binge eating disorder, the ‘hunger’ is never for food.
I’ve written and talked a lot about the power of the mindset and the need to work on your inner self before you can change your outer self. And that’s exactly what Monica does to take back her life and win the battle. After working on her inner self her outer self began to change.
Once she slowed down and started to explore life outside tennis she finally started to connect with her inner self and the desperation and obsession to eat started to subside. Due to an injury, she couldn’t play tennis for a while and was forced to look at who she really was. As the pace slowed, so did her intake of food. She began to identify with her feelings and most importantly – once she changed her focus from her obsession about losing the weight, she started to lose it. Effortlessly. And you can too.
You see, whatever you focus on is what will manifest in your life. If you focus all of your time and energy on how awful you look and feel, well — you’ll continue to look and feel awful. When you shift your focus to something positive and explore new things, you’ll find you don’t have to diet or try to control things to change your body and weight. It was the same for me in my weight struggles and helped me recover from an eating disorder.
Personally I loved the book as many of her struggles I could relate to. Though she may have the money, fame, and trophy’s on her mantle, she clearly shows that those things don’t bring true happiness. The book isn’t a diet book nor about a quick fix. Instead, it’s about learning how to enjoy food again, learning to let go of the past, and coming to peace with yourself. Monica learns to reduce her anguish over the things she cannot control, and realizes that she can do a better job over those things she CAN control — such as her mindset and her eating.
It’s an inspiration for anyone struggling with their weight, overeating, or binge eating. It will give you hope and let you know that you can turn your life around. Starting with your inner self.