TORONTO (January 26, 2022) – The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) remains committed to reducing the stigma around mental illness. As a proud partner of Bell and in support of Bell Let’s Talk Day 2022, the COC is honoured to share the story of four-time Olympian Georgia Simmerling.
In a first-person article, Simmerling shares her struggle with bulimia to help others know they are not alone.
“There are only a handful of individuals who know this but I am now ready to share that I suffered from bulimia during the prime years of my athletic career,” said Simmerling. “I have always been viewed as a woman who is comfortable in her own skin but to the many who have experienced eating disorders know that there are two sides to every story – one of seeking acceptance from others and the other of shame and self-harm.”
Simmerling is not alone when it comes to her experience. Research shows that high-performance athletes disproportionately experience symptoms of eating disorders and disordered eating compared to the general population. This highlights how challenging it can be for high-performance athletes to have a healthy relationship with food.
“Paying attention to how you fuel your body, including whether it is optimised to train and compete, is an inherent part of performing at a world class level. “It can be challenging for high-performance athletes and coaches to recognize where the line is between adaptive and unhealthy approaches to food,” explains Dr. Krista Van Slingerland, Mental Health Manager for Game Plan, Canada’s total athlete wellness program that strives to support national team athletes to live better and more holistic lives.
“Diagnosing and treating eating disorders in elite athlete populations is complex for this same reason – which is why it’s imperative that athletes struggling with symptoms of eating disorders feel comfortable asking for help, and have access to practitioners in mental health and nutrition who understand the high-performance sport context.”
Simmerling made history at Rio 2016 by becoming the first Canadian athlete to compete in a different sport at each of three different Olympic Games – alpine skiing at Vancouver 2010, ski cross at Sochi 2014 and track cycling at both Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020. In Rio, Simmerling helped Canada win its second straight Olympic bronze medal in track cycling’s team pursuit event.
“Coming forward and sharing my journey is certainly far from easy. However, I think it is so important to share my story to help another person facing similar circumstances, ” added Simmerling. “For anyone struggling out there, please remember that there are people and resources to support you. You are loved and people close to you want only one thing — for your happiness and health to shine brightly.”
Now based in Calgary — and engaged to Stephanie Labbé, goalkeeper of Canada’s Olympic gold medal-winning women’s soccer team — the 32-year-old operates AG Sports Inc., a female-focused marketing agency.
Mental health is a critical component of total athlete wellness. To support this, Game Plan offers national team athletes access to confidential sport-informed mental health care through its nationwide network of mental health providers. Athletes also have access to a 24/7/365 Helpline operated by LifeWorks, the official Mental Health Partner of the Canadian Olympic Committee.
As a proud partner of Bell and in support of Bell Let’s Talk Day, the Canadian Olympic Committee remains committed to reducing the stigma around mental illness every day.
On Bell Let’s Talk Day, Bell donates 5 cents to Canadian mental health programs for every applicable text, local or long distance call, tweet or TikTok video using #BellLetsTalk, every Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube view of the Bell Let’s Talk Day video, and every use of the Bell Let’s Talk Facebook frame or Snapchat lens. All at no cost to participants beyond what they would normally pay their service provider for online or phone access.
Download the Bell Let’s Talk toolkit for mental health resources and services to begin your own conversation about mental health at home, school or in the workplace.
Do you think you may be struggling with symptoms of an eating disorder?
The National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC) operates Canada’s only National Toll-Free Helpline (1-866-633-4220) providing information on treatment options and/or support to Canadians affected by disordered eating and related concerns.Game Plan athletes can learn more about the mental health resources available to them here.
Photo and story courtesy of the Canadian Olympic Committee.