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Cathy Rigby Says Had Bulimia & Anorexia While On Olympics Team

April 25, 1986

LOGAN, Utah (AP) _ Former gymnastics star Cathy Rigby McCoy said she was suffering from anorexia and bulimia when she was a member of the U.S. Olympics Team.

″The combined pressures of competition, constant dieting, a desire to win and a fear of failure took their toll until I began receiving treatment five years ago and learned the value of good nutrition and good relationships,″ Ms. McCoy, 32, said in a speech Thursday at Utah State University.

Ms. McCoy, the winner of 12 international gold medals, said about 20 percent of the women on college campuses and 13 percent of junior high school girls suffer from an eating disorder.

In anorexia, victims virtually starve themselves, while people with bulimia binge and then purge their bodies by vomiting or using laxatives.

″Because 20 percent of the people who develop these diseases die, it’s extremely important that the problems be brought under control,″ she said.

She was hospitalized twice, she said.

″When your potassium level gets as low as mine was and vitamins and minerals are missing from your body, it causes your heart to beat irregularly and heart attacks often follow. The disorders also can cause brain atrophy and premature aging,″ she said.

Pressured by parents, coaches, trainers and others to keep her weight down during international competition, she became anorexic and once got down to 79 pounds, she said.

″At the 1972 Olympics some other gymnasts taught me the techniques of binging and purging and I began the vicious cycles of eating up to 15,000 calories a day, but getting rid of it all by vomiting,″ she said.

The road to good health began, she said, after she divorced her husband of nine years, which she said was difficult because ″I had never been assertive and I wanted people to think I had a perfect life and marriage.″

Her second husband, Tom, encouraged her to seek professional treatment.

She still gets frustrated at times, but, ″I have throw my scales away and have learned to take control of my life instead of letting others do it for me,″ she said.

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