My dangerous obsession
HOCKEY’S poster girl Anna Flanagan may be a picture of health but her fit physique became a dangerous obsession.
The former world hockey young player of the year has revealed she has secretly battled a recurring eating disorder since bursting on to the international stage seven years ago.
“It’s not something I’ve ever shared publicly but I went from eating the perfect diet to become the perfect athlete to obsessing about food,” Flanagan said.
“Initially, it started as anorexia and I restricted my diet but it turned into bulimia. It was a really unhealthy relationship with food and how I viewed it.
“It took up a lot of time in my head, it would get me super down, and I hated that part of myself.”
Flanagan, 25, is attempting to revive her international career after a horror 2016, when she was dumped from the national team for covering up a drink-driving conviction.
For the first time since she was a teenager, the 2010 and 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medallist missed a string of international tournaments through suspension and was subsequently passed over for Rio Olympics selection.
After battling back into the team she was again left out for ‘breaching team protocols’. Flanagan now concedes she “self-sabotaged” her career in reaction to a ‘toxic’ Hockeyroos camp culture.
During her spell away from the game, Flanagan’s well-documented depression worsened, she cut herself off from family and friends, and struggled to get out of bed. Assuming her sporting career was over, she finally withdrew from the limelight and stared down her demons.
With the help of psychologists, Flanagan has come to understand daily exercise, meditation and healthy eating keeps her “happy and healthy” but remains conscious of lapsing into a depressive state.
“Don’t feel embarrassed or afraid of being judged about your mental health. Once you open yourself up people will be there to point you in the right direction,” she said.
After competing at the Australian Hockey League championships, Flanagan said going public with her mental health issues was daunting but she had found it so liberating she will now assume the mantle of headspace day ambassador.
With suicide accounting for one in three deaths among young Australians, the national youth mental health foundation is calling on people to discuss the simple things they do to look after their mental health.
The charity has posed the question “what makes you feel better?” and wants people to write down and post a photo of the answer on a placard from headspaceday.org.au using the hashtag #headspaceday.
Hockey Player Anna Flanagan at Scarborough Beach in Perth. Picture: Richard Hatherly.