What started out as a healthy training routine for the City to Surf fun run turned into an obsession with fitness for Australian woman Rachel Baffsky.
The 26-year-old personal trainer from Sydney began training to compete in the run after experiencing a ‘depressive period’ in her life while studying at the University of Sydney.
Appearing on SBS Insight on Tuesday night, Ms Baffsky explained that she wanted to regain control of her life and focus on an achievement, such as competing in the run.
‘It was a health goal and to boost my self esteem, to feel good about myself,’ she said.
Rachel Baffsky, 26, began training for the City to Surf run as a healthy goal before it spiraled into an eating disorder
With professional guidance and a running routine, Ms Baffsky said she went into the training as a ‘health goal’.
But within six months, her health had deteriorated due to her intense exercise routine and restrictive diet.
Ms Baffsky was eventually diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, becoming lethargic and losing excessive amounts of weight after running 12 kilometres each week, coupled with weight sessions and a small diet.
Ms Baffsky spoke of her battle with anorexia nervosa on SBS Insight on Tuesday night
Ms Baffsky at her university graduation, where she was her lowest weight and most malnourished
‘Yes I did start losing weight, I started getting compliments about it and I started feeling good about those compliments,’ she said.
The 26-year-old was eventually able to get the treatment she needed, but not before having an iron infusion before she was able to be admitted to hospital.
Despite her malnourished frame and declining health, Ms Baffsky rationalised her obsession with fitness and dieting.
‘Because I was getting fit, I was like I couldn’t possibly be sick because I am so fit,’ she said.
‘I was achieving these athletic goals – I was running further and faster than ever – so I just justified in my head that I couldn’t possibly be sick.
‘I was ignoring the symptoms.’
‘Because I was getting fit, I was like I couldn’t possibly be sick because I am so fit,’ she said (pictured second from left with friends)
When Ms Baffsky finally sought the help she needed, she said it was ‘freeing’
Ms Baffsky said she was the most malnourished and at her lowest weight at her university graduation.
Dr Sloane Madden, a child and adolescent psychologist who works with eating disorders, told Insight that extreme dieting and exercise is often linked to certain personalities.
‘The genetic risk is for the personality type we’ve talked about – perfectionists wanting to make everyone happy,’ he said.
While Rachel battled her eating disorder in her adulthood, Dr Madden said he sees children as young as eight, nine and 10.
When Ms Baffsky finally sought the help she needed, she said it was ‘freeing’ to give over control to health care professionals.
‘I had spent so much of my mental energy obsessing over my diet and my exercise and to be able to not think about that I felt it was quite liberating,’ she said.
For confidential support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.