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A Personal Response to Meg Lanning

Georgie Heath on the incredible power of Meg Lanning and the impact her sharing of her health struggles has had on her.

This week, former Australian women's cricket captain Meg Lanning shared her difficult story of "an unhealthy relationship with exercise and food" that ultimately led to her retirement from international cricket in November 2023.

Speaking on The Howie Games podcast, the 31-year-old detailed her reduced intake, excessive running, weight loss and lack of sleep that all "just spiralled." While it wasn't given a formal label of an eating disorder, it became evident that something was up - running 90km a week on two insubstantial meals a day is not the usual movements of a top sportswoman.

As a Meg Lanning fan, I was sad to see her say goodbye to international cricket even if the Aussie was an unmovable thorn in the English side. But, for me, this interview was about so much more than cricket. It is perhaps the most I have ever been able to relate to someone at the very top of the game.

So this is a personal response from me to Meg - it's a "thank you", an "I get you", a "you are not alone" and a "we f*****g got this."

I have never been quiet about my own ongoing struggles with an eating disorder and while Meg did not label it such, this discussion over food and exercise needs to be had more openly in sports and beyond. So I guess the first thing I would say is "Thanks Meg".

Thank you for speaking out, thank you for sharing your personal journey, thank you for making these conversations happen and thank you for showing how important it is to put yourself first (even above cricket!)

People in the media will continually label this with the typical buzzwords like 'brave' and 'honest' but until you've personally experienced struggles with exercise and eating, you'll never quite see just how hard it is to admit that something is really wrong.

Look, I know I'm not an elite sportswoman, but as someone who has always been involved in sports, I know the kind of pressures it brings and the scrutiny you come under. Whether that be your performance on the field, what you say off it and sadly still today especially in women's sport, so much about what you look like.

For me, the non-elite sportswoman, in my struggles over food, body image and eating disorders, I feel this scrutiny daily although somewhat differently. I understand that people want the best for you but I find that when I see them in person, it's like I'm being analysed from head to toe. When they follow it up with (usually well-meaning) "you've gained weight" or "you look better", there's a strangely wired part of my brain that hears this in a negative way and immediately feels I've failed, I need to run, I need to shrink myself or I need to restrict my eating. Now, put this on a player who is captain of arguably the best sports team on the planet, and this scrutiny multiplies infinitely. So, yes, the media can call it brave but when you understand what sharing her struggles and those responses do internally, then you truly understand the courage.

Something that resonated so much with me listening was the apparent feeling of "control" and the desire to prove anyone wrong who dared say something was up.

Speaking on the podcast Meg said: "I felt very out of control in terms of what my future looked like. If it's not cricket, what does life look like if I am not playing? How could I not want to travel the world and play cricket? That doesn't make any sense.
"So [my obsession] was a bit of control. I felt like I was in control of that."

That's the word. The 'C' word. CONTROL.

I've seen a LOT of therapists, read a lot of articles and heard a lot of (sometimes unsolicited) advice but one thing that has always cropped up is the feeling of 'control' with an eating disorder. In a world of uncertainty, I can control exactly what I put in, how much I move and then quantify all of it with numbers and the calming reassurance that I'm in control.

Am I in control aren't I?


That's what the voice in my head wants me to think, but really that voice is the one in charge.

Another thing that really stuck with me was the concept of disengagement - being 'there' but not really 'being there' is something I'm all too familiar with. An unfuelled brain and an exhausted body don't waste time and energy on things that aren't important for survival like conversation. For me, isolating myself was the easiest way to solve this. It's much harder when you're the captain of an international team so I'll have to take Meg's word for it on that one but for lesser batters like me I could say no to things, make excuses and hide myself away with my new friend (the disordered voice in my head).

"It [affected] my ability to concentrate. I didn't really want to see other people. I disengaged a lot from friends and family. I didn't realise that I was doing this. It sort of became a new normal. I naturally would enjoy spending time by myself. I'm totally fine with that. But there would be very few people who I would want to engage with. I would get really snappy, real moody if anyone asked anything. I became a bit of a different person. Pretty hard to be around, I would say." - Meg Lanning

That last bit got me. Hard to be around. At my lowest, I would fully snap at the smallest things like Mum offering me a cup of tea and could be found in angry tears if plans changed. So, instead of looking at it, again, I stuck a metaphorical plaster on it and isolated myself. Much easier. I'm still learning now that those people who care won't leave you to fester and you have to lean on them. A problem shared is a problem halved. I'm painfully aware that there are also some people I pushed away and have never really connected with the same way again and it's something that makes me sad, angry and full of resentment for myself at the same time. If I'd been more honest and more open with them earlier in would it have been different? I'll never know.

What struck me with Meg is her ability to still go out there, score big and perform on the pitch. I cannot stress enough how hard this is. This is a testament to the mental resilience of one of the greats BUT it comes at a cost. She admitted her "I'll show you" attitude and desire to carry on as normal despite the weight loss and lack of sleep. She knew there was something up but remained in denial and I know that one. Even at a time I could barely walk up the stairs, I was in denial. I pushed and pushed, bought a fit bit, got my steps in and lied to myself and others around me that anything was up. Yes, I'd lost a heap of weight but I was going to be the exception to the rule. I was going to be able to (not) have my cake and (not) eat it. I'd show them. I thought this was strength.

But the real strength both of us showed wasn't in ploughing on. It was in stopping, taking stock and seeking help. Yes, I'll always admire what Meg achieved while in a bad place, but what REALLY inspires me is her ability to put her pride aside, take the leap and ask for help.

THAT is true strength.

So, thank you Meg for sharing your story. You'll probably never see this and you may never realise just how much you have helped others around the world (myself included). These kinds of conversations are so important. There are times I am so tempted to just spiral back into a really bad place myself when things around are off-kilter and this is when I become isolated and secretive and probably not much fun to be around. I've felt it a lot recently but listening to you has reminded me of what I need to do and how I can rediscover happiness. Sometimes I'm too engrossed in my own thoughts to share how I am but you've reminded me of the importance of talking. Not just for me but if MY openness can help even one person then it's worth it.

And if you're in any doubt, YOUR story has helped at least one person. ME!

Now if you could help with my batting average too that would be much appreciated!

"What I have come to know is that everybody is always going through something, no matter how much they look like they have got things under control. And that was something that I felt like I was good at, looking like I had everything under control. And that's absolutely not the case. I've really started to understand how actually talking to people and letting people know can actually help." - Meg Lanning

I want to highlight three BIG takeaways from this:

  1. Eating disorders DO NOT DISCRIMINATE. We have long been fed (excuse the pun) the story that it is just young girls wanting to be skinny who struggle. We are constantly shown pictures of this and the media continually portrays it this way. But it is SO MUCH BIGGER THAN THAT.

  2. If your team-mate or friend starts acting differently around food, having mood swings, visibly isolating themselves or losing weight, you have the power to help them. Everyone deserves happiness and everyone deserves help.

  3. The changes in a person struggling aren't always massive and blindingly obvious. Eating disorders aren't just about weight or size or appearance and people can carry on seemingly performing BUT there are signs and we all need to be more educated in spotting them so less people struggle in the future and can get the early help they deserve.

And finally, you WILL feel like this again. There are always harder days and darker days but the sun (especially in Australia) will rise again and remember "YOU F*****G got this."

If you or someone you know are struggling, please seek help. Speak to someone whether it be a coach, a parent, a teacher, a GP or a friend. Plus, there are so many resources online that are a great place to start.

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