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AFLW player Ellie Hampson’s disordered eating hell

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It’s hard to pinpoint the moment Ellie Hampson developed disordered eating and exercise.

Her sheer desperation to be drafted into the AFLW made her play through an ankle injury in 2019, but when her body finally gave way she became fixated on calories and riddled with thoughts that any weight gain while sidelined would ruin her career.

She still achieved her dream of becoming drafted to the Gold Coast Suns, but in the process inflicted a stress reaction injury in her shin and more foot issues.

So, while her Suns teammates were working hard on the track and in the gym, the midfielder was on the sidelines fearing any excess calories would put her further behind.

In actual fact, lack of calories only increased her recovery time.

“There were a couple of conversations here and there about what my eating was like, and I kind of fluffed over it,” Hampson said.

“Then I realised that (eating) was actually the issue and it wasn’t something I could just change (own my own).

“I actually needed to mentally make some changes through psychologists and physios to actually believe that this (recovery) was going to help me.”

Hampson played just seven games in her first two AFLW seasons as she slowly came to terms with her disordered eating and inability to fuel her body for recovery.

“Input and output of calories was a massive thing because you’re not running or training as much as people around you, you’re trying to pull (calories) back.

“Meanwhile, your body needs that to repair.

“You’re stuck in this mindset that, ‘This is helping me, not eating enough or taking out carbs is going to help me’, when in reality it’s not.”

Sometimes the only thing keeping her eating was knowing that if she didn’t, her job could be at risk.

“There are days where there could be things you don’t want to eat, or you try and not eat that, but at the end of the day if you don’t you pass out at training, so you have to,” she said.

“You’ve got to change those wired in your brain to allow that information to sink in.

“That took a long time and is still mending now.”

But Hampson’s mental injury developed years before her physical one, first revealing itself in high school when the dichotomy between an athlete and a normal teenage girl began to form.

In one part of her life, she wanted to be the ultimate athlete – “the strongest, the fittest and the fastest”; in another, she wanted to look like everyone else.

“I was probably in denial for years, (I told myself) it was normal, everyone had a bit of body image issues, and then when I accepted that it was affecting my career I realised I needed to take it more seriously and seek professional help.”


Originally published as AFLW prospect Ellie Hampson’s draft desperation sparked disordered eating hell

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