Story by Elizabeth Walztoni, Editor-in-Chief
Photo courtesy Jane Hibbard Idema Women’s Studies Center
On Monday, Sept. 21, the Jane Hibbard Idema Women’s Studies Center (JHIWSC) hosts their first event of the semester. Rachel Steil, an Aquinas alum (Class of ’15), will be speaking about her book, “Running in Silence,” recently released in its second edition. The book details Steil’s experience as an All-American cross country and track runner with an eating disorder.
Steil says on her website, Running in Silence, that her “greatest achievement was not breaking a physical barrier, but a mental one.” Her experience is not an uncommon one: According to her website, “athletes are 2-3 times more likely to develop an eating disorder than the general population.Yet coaches, teammates, parents, and even athletes who struggle themselves are often unable to see it in a world where discipline, determination, and ‘no pain, no gain’ attitude can lend themselves to disordered thoughts and behaviors around food and exercise.”
In conjunction with her book’s initial publication, Steil founded a nonprofit of the same name to educate coaches on the signs of eating disorders in their athletes. This caught the attention of JHWISC, whose events this academic year are based on the theme of “Women in Leadership.” Speakers are determined by JHWISC director Amy Dunham-Strand, Ph.D., her interns, and the Women’s Studies Programming Board.
Kaela Frailing, a JHIWSC intern and former Aquinas runner, had suggested Steil to the programming group. Frailing knows Steil personally from her involvement in the school’s athletic programs.
“You can’t separate nutrition from athletics,” Frailing said,”there will be always be some relationship.” She believes Steil’s hand at Aquinas has helped the college foster a healthy environment. For example, the program’s male head coach hired female assistant coaches so that all runners felt comfortable talking about their struggles. At Monday’s 6 p.m. event, Steil will speak about her book and answer questions from the audience. The talk will be recorded; request a copy of this recording by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org before or after the event.