Author and speaker Rachael Steil will visit Dana Hall School this January to speak publicly about her personal battle with an eating disorder. Steil will share her story of recovery and will describe the warning signs when a person’s habits change from healthy to unhealthy. While her message is important for athletes, Steil will encourage everyone to be aware of possible risks.
"Eating disorders continue to be a very serious problem, particularly among adolescent girls," said Pia Manna, R.N., Director of Health Services. "As a community, it is important to provide our students with awareness and education surrounding this significant issue, and we are very fortunate to welcome Rachael Steil to campus. Rachael will share the story of her own recovery from an eating disorder while creating a dialogue of hope and resilience. I look forward to sharing this profound experience with our students and the greater Dana Hall community."
We caught up with Steil over email to learn about her path to sharing her story and the importance behind encouraging others to get help when needed.
How did you get involved in public speaking? What drew you to the topics you discuss?
I knew from a young age I wanted to be an author, and I knew that if I were to publish a book, I would likely be presenting about it. I took a public speaking course in high school and two courses in college. I didn't think much beyond this—really, I had no exact plan of what I was going to do when I graduated college, but I suspected these classes would be useful.
I also knew that I wanted to publish a book about running someday, since running was a huge passion of mine; I just didn't think I'd end up writing about running with an eating disorder.
When the Running in Silence
book was published, my passion went beyond writing and into speaking about the misconceptions of eating disorders because those misconceptions delayed me speaking up and getting treatment sooner. And I knew I could do more than write words on a page; I could speak about it. The topics I discuss through the speaking engagements merely came out of my own experience, and what I had written about in the book and on my website, runninginsilence.com
Why is it important to share this message with others? Why now?
Many people believe they aren't "sick enough" to get help, or they are in denial because they believe that what they're struggling with isn't a problem. As an athletic community, we have not brought mental health to light as much as we should. I wanted to share this message to encourage others to speak up and get help sooner.
I started the Running in Silence website in 2012 and started speaking about the message behind it in 2014. I've learned that speaking about it now is so important—the sooner I spoke up, the sooner others recognized their own struggles and reached out for help.I remember how awful it felt to go through the eating disorder back in 2010–2014—how alone, confused and afraid I felt. I don't want anyone else to feel that way.
What is the one thing you hope parents and students take away from your upcoming presentations at Dana Hall?
I want everyone to feel they are important enough to be heard—no struggle is too small to dismiss. Everyone has a story, and those stories are worth looking into, sharing and getting professional help. I think we all would do well with seeing a counselor just like we check in with a medical doctor.
Parents and guardians are invited to the parent presentation on Monday, January 14, at 7 p.m., in Waldo Auditorium. Steil will present to the students and faculty in advance of meeting with parents.