Former All American sheds light on eating disorders

By Nathan Terry

On Thursday, Nov. 30, author Rachael Steil spoke at the Ross Sports Center on her recently published book Running in Silence. Steil, a former cross country running at Aquinas College who graduated in 2015, dealt with eating disorders throughout her cross country career and wrote her book to increase awareness about the growing number of eating disorders among college athletes.

Steil began running cross country in 7th grade. She ran throughout high school, setting numerous school records, and continued her career at Aquinas College. Upon beginning her college career, Steil began eating less and less food in an attempt to become leaner and faster. An English major, Steil was an All-American collegiate runner, placed at the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) track nationals, and also broke school records in both track and cross-country. Despite her success, she struggled with her eating habits and continued to lose weight. As a sophomore, she was diagnosed with an eating disorder.

“I was in denial for a long time,” Steil said. “I started binge eating, and I thought I needed to lose weight.” In Running in Silence, Steil details how she tried sticking to a raw food diet and then turned to binge eating. Steil said that her coach and family were aware of her unusual diet and were ok with it. However, Steil eventually realized that her weight had become dangerously low. Steil was often very fatigued after races, and her performances suffered as a result. After talking with her coach, she decided it was time to get help.

Steil was able to slowly recover from her disorder thanks to the support of her family, friends and her coach as well as the help of a therapist and a dietician.

After graduating from Aquinas, Steil, who always knew she wanted to be an author, decided to share her experiences in a book. “I have learned that it is possible to gain happiness by doing what scares you,” Steil said. She has taken on public speaking in recent months, and has worked on increasing awareness on eating disorders.

Steil was initially contacted by the Student athletic association conference (SAAC) member Emily Kopacz, ’19, about giving a talk at St. Michael’s. “I really enjoyed reading her book, and I reached out to her about speaking here after SAAC asked for guest speakers,” Kopacz said. “Meg Delude said that the athletic department would cover the costs, and we officially set up the date about a month ago.”

A couple hundred student athletes were in attendance for the free admission talk, which lasted about an hour. Steil took a couple questions afterwards, and had several books available to purchase. At the conclusion of her talk, Steil received a standing ovation