I was literally the first person to claim a seat for ‘breakfast with Monica’ today at the NEDA Conference. I felt like a shameless groupie! I wore my tennis earrings for the occasion.
When Monica took the stage: my first impression was: boy, is she tall! Monica spoke very articulately about her struggles with Binge Eating Disorder; which she suffered from for many years. While her family and coaches knew something was wrong, they did not understand that this is a medical condition that cannot simply be ‘stopped’. So disciplined and controlled in most aspects of her life, she couldn’t understand why she could not control this element of her life. It baffled her and those in her inner circle.
For many years, Monica’s obsession was not to win the next grand slam; but to get thinner, as she struggled with body image and binge eating demons. It is particularly difficult to take a ‘time out’ to deal with a medical issue when you are a professional athlete. You have contractual obligations, your winnings are needed to support your family and your staff and your staff’s family. That’s a lot of pressure for a teenager! She knew she had a problem, but didn’t know what to do about it–no one in circle really took it seriously. Finally… eventually, she had a frank conversation with her doctor and began the healing process.
During the Q&A, I submitted two questions: 1) Her thoughts on the body-shaming directed at female athletes, including Serena and; 2) why Monica used a two-handed forehand. Only # 2 was posed by the moderator: Monica laughed and said that was because when she started playing, she was playing with an adult sized racquet and needed two hands to control it — and it became a habit.
We were all given a copy of her book: “Get a Grip”; and she stayed to sign copies. I gushed up to her with a copy of my Monica Seles Post from March 2015 (I’m sure she will treasure it always). She inscribed my book with: to Paula: keep Swinging, I’ll see you on the courts”. She couldn’t have been more gracious!