Who is Jayne Nisbet? Much more than someone who suffered with eating disorders, that much is certain. Scottish Women in Sport’s Role Model of the Year 2017, author, blogger, PT, life coach, public speaker. Not to forget her career as a professional athlete – competing internationally in high jump and in 2014 placing in the top ten in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. These are a lot of labels, because Jayne puts a lot into life!
There were so many questions in my mind before this interview. Is it possible to truly recover from an eating disorder? How many pressures are elite female athletes under from coaches and elite sports culture? What is Loughborough really like for an athlete? Where is the balance between healthy and unhealthy behaviour and training for female athletes? How does this affect body image in later years?
Our conversation explores beneath the surface of Jayne’s identity, into the life-changing struggles and experiences that have influenced and motivated her life today.
Jayne was fast tracked into the world of elite athletics for triple jump then high jump at age 16, after competing for Scotland in swimming as a child. As a teenager, her life was consumed by training, coaching, optimisation and nutrition. With this structure came the pressure to look a certain way and achieve the right ratios - lean muscle, strength to weight. Strive for perfection in all aspects of body and sport. Anorexia and bulimia took hold of Jayne’s thinking and behaviours and her mental and physical wellbeing began to unravel during her time at Loughborough High Performance Training Camp, the world-renowned GB training institution. Jayne struggled hard for years to access help, despite asking repeatedly, and slipped into a deep depression that culminated in trying to take her life.
Jayne began to recover only when she prioritised recovery over everything else. She finally began to access meaningful therapy, through private psychotherapy, which helped her expose the roots of her eating disorder. Jayne’s opinion on full but mindful recovery, without becoming complacent, is refreshing and highly valuable to others; her experience shows to those who are suffering that it is possible to move past the worst. We also talked about the similarities between eating disorders and addictions; Jayne’s ethics on rest and recovery in training, the importance of an individualised coaching approach; dating and meeting her person in 2019; and stepping into the world of public speaking and empowerment events.
She also brought me up to date with dating apps!
A few take-home messages
Training and rest don’t have to be optimal all the time; striving for perfection is a dangerous game that will steal your joy, consume your life minutes and impact your relationships. Try instead to prioritise enjoyment and fun in whatever you’re doing, otherwise you’ll be unhappy, stressed and anxious. Too much control breeds resentment.
It is ok to have goals. Learn to relinquish that full control whilst still choosing wisely what you wish to focus on. Try to be flexible in the method that gets you to your goals.
True and sustainable recovery from eating disorders is possible, it’s not going to be easy every day but there is every reason to have faith it can happen.
Show Jayne some love on social if you enjoy this episode and why not share it in a tweet or story with the folks in your world. You never know, the issues we talk about here may strike a chord, especially in the running community.
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