A former Razorback track and field athlete said that she knew starving herself was wrong, but in order to be the fastest on the team, she had to be thin. Less weight meant a faster time.
But those around her knew it was a dangerous path to athletic success.
Chandler Crumblish sat in an office, listening to the doctor tell her something that she already knew.
"You can either get better, or stay at 83 pounds and die," the doctor said.
Crumblish started running at 10 years old. Her dad ran the mile and steeplechase at the United States Naval Academy in 1986, and he said he wanted his daughter to follow in his footsteps by running the mile.
The same year she started running, she qualified for the state championships in Waco, Texas, at Baylor University. She was the first female in the state championships to run under a sub-6 minute mile.
“This is great,” her father, Mark, had said. “Maybe one day you’ll be good enough to run for Arkansas.”
Crumblish said her father knew about the dominance of the Razorback track and field program at the time and saw the UofA as a good fit for her.
From then, the Fort Worth, Texas, native knew she wanted to run for the UofA.
Crumblish said although her love for the UofA started at a young age, her body-image issues started at a young age as well.
“People would make fun of me because of my body,” Crumblish said. “In sixth grade, people would call me noodle legs. Ever since I was little I was always underweight. I had issues taking in calories. It was never really a psychological issue. I was just burning more than I was taking in.”
When Crumblish arrived at the UofA she realized the girls on the track team were all very thin. She said many girls on the team weighed as little as 100 pounds compared to when she arrived, weighing in at 115 pounds.
“I was always the one who wore a T-shirt during a hard workout,” Crumblish said. “People would always ask why I was running with a thick t-shirt on. I didn’t like the way my body looked, but I’ve never liked how my body looked. I’ve always thought I was a fat, disgusting human being. I hated everything about myself, but it was normal for me.”
Throughout her collegiate career, Crumblish struggled with consuming food, but it was not until her junior season that she noticed something was wrong. She said she would have her daily routine of eating egg whites for breakfast, going on a 10- to 15-mile run with her team, going to school and eating a spoonful of almond butter for dinner. This would equal out to 170 calories a day.
“I would search online how long can someone go with only eating 170 calories a day,” Crumblish said. “Some days I would go out and try to eat, but I would freak out. I just think track is difficult because you see these top runners from the U.S. and around the world that are paper thin. They aren’t bad influences, but seeing how my body was, I would think, ‘Well they look like that, what’s wrong with me?’”
The Breaking Point
For Crumblish, starving herself all came to a halt when she began her weekly meetings with Jamie McDermott, a nutritionist who was hired by the school.
Crumblish said she started meeting with McDermott the summer between her junior and senior year. She would meet with her Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday to be weighed and discuss her eating habits.
“I knew I had a problem,” Crumblish said. “During junior year one week, from Thursday to a Tuesday, I lost 13 pounds.”
Crumblish said McDermott asked her what she was doing to stay so thin. What she didn’t tell her doctor at the time was that she was starving herself. McDermott also said if she did not gain the weight back, she would drop all of Crumblish’s classes and send her to Phoenix for rehab. She said she would be in treatment for as long as she needed and would be treated for Anorexia Nervosa. Crumblish wouldn’t have a phone or any communication with the outside world.
McDermott said she never saw Crumblish on Saturdays nor did she threaten to send Crumblish to Phoenix for rehab. She stressed that she does not have the power to send students to rehab and drop them from their classes, but instead, she said she recommended certain options Crumblish could pursue to seek help.
“The doctor told me I would die if I kept this up, but I was thinking, ‘That’s what I want.’ Because I was miserable. ‘This is what I’ve always wanted.’”
Crumblish said she forced herself to eat and ended up gaining the weight back and because she was on a mental-health break from the team during the middle of summer her junior year, she got a job at Sam’s Club to keep her busy. She said it would help her get out of the house because her roommate was gone for the summer.
“I got off work one day and was home getting ready for the gym, and I stepped on the scale like I always did,” Crumblish said. “I don’t know if my mind was playing games, but I saw 124 and I didn’t like it. I lost it, and at this point no one was home, and I decided to take every pill I could find. I had texted a friend and told her what I had (done).”
Crumblish’s friend, Sam Marks, a former UA golf player, found her mother on Facebook and told her what she had just done. Marks called the police, and they showed up to Crumblish’s house. They searched her car and house for any other items that might cause harm to her.
By law, when someone overdoses, they must be sent to the hospital for a check up. Crumblish said her friend escorted her to Washington Regional Medical Center and after a four hour examination, an ambulance took her to the Northwest Arkansas Women's Mental Health Clinic.
Crumblish arrived around 1 a.m. and had to go through multiple health tests. Hours later, she was released at 5:30 a.m. She said she didn’t have a car to drive home, so she called an Uber.
For an outsider looking in, it may seem that student-athletes have it all together: the gear, the ability to balance school, sleep and social life. Physically, sports can take a toll on a student-athlete's body, but mentally, it’s completely different.
“The mental side of college athletics created a monster in me that I didn’t realize until I exploded,” Crumblish said. “At the time, I didn’t see all of the signs.”
Crumblish is now working in Fort Worth for Signature Consultants, a staffing company. She said she is not seeing anyone in regards to her eating disorder but is still struggling with the idea of gaining weight.
“A part of me doesn’t want to get better, but I know I can’t starve myself again,” Crumblish said.
“It’s almost like I want my body to fix itself, but I know it’s not going to. So I have to keep living.”
She said that although she is still enduring this disease, her advice for others suffering from an eating disorder is to seek help.
“If someone is struggling mentally in college, use your resources,” Crumblish said. “The school provides psychologists and doctors for eating disorders. Seek help and accept it.”
This article was updated to include an interview conducted with Jamie McDermott that should have been included in the article before its initial posting.
The Traveler strives for accuracy and clarity in all matters.