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Fit Not Healthy

Distorted body image is a growing concern amongst women in educated, often affluent communities, fuelled by a public obsession with the perfect body and a skewed definition of what it means to look fit, healthy and/or beautiful. Sometimes that distortion result in obviously unhealthy behaviour, but, disturbingly, it can also manifest as an over-zealous focus on health and fitness. Fit not Healthy is the story of how one woman's determination to be lean, fit and healthy took her to the brink of infertility and death and how she pulled back just in time to regain her health and perspective and start a family. Vanessa Alford was obsessed with becoming one of Australia's top marathon runners; so obsessed that she pushed her body to breaking point - literally - and to the point when she was unable to conceive despite being young, strong and supposedly healthy. Her body fat percentage dropped to 14%; she developed stress fractures and felt physically unwell most of the time, but she continued training, ignoring the concerns and advice of family and friends. Looking back now, after her recovery, Vanessa says she was in denial about the need to rest and feed her body in order to give it the opportunity to recover from the physical damage and mental strain she put it under. She was always looking for another way, another practitioner who would confirm that she could heal whilst maintaining a rigorous training schedule that included running over two hours a day. It was only her desire to have a baby and the shock of being unable to fall pregnant that shattered her wall of denial and allowed her to see clearly what she was doing to herself. Vanessa is one of the lucky ones. She gained seven kilograms in four months, pushing her body fat up to 22%, and she was then able to conceive. She is now fit AND healthy, and she and her husband have a happy, healthy baby girl and are expecting another child. Others are not so lucky. they are still battling the internal and external voices that say leaner and fitter is always better; that women can be healthy at the same body fat percentages as men; and that you do not need to eat more, even if your body is telling you it is hungry. It is Vanessa's hope that her story can save at least one of woman from herself. Fit Not Healthy is a story for our times
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About the Author

Vanessa Alford lectures in sports medicine and is completing her Doctorate of Philosophy in Indigenous Health. She also teaches pilates. She is committed to maintaining a balance between life and health. She continues to jog, but only for 30 minutes at a time a couple of times a week.


"This is an honest and heart-wrenching journey which gives a real insight into the life of what some athletes put their minds and bodies through. I saw numerous parallels with my own career. An example of an overpowering inner force that warps your reality. Sport can be wonderful but at times lead you down a dangerous path of absorbing passion. Vanessa plunges blindly into self-sabotage by pushing her body beyond the limits. A great read and excellent warning to all high achievers driven to extremes to excel. It s a story of hope and redemption." Jana Pittman, two time World Champion, Commonwealth Games gold medallist, three time Australian Olympian" "I congratulate Vanessa for writing and sharing about an important and often silent aspect of an athlete's experience with food and training. Her raw honesty about her treacherous battle with her inner voice and revelations will inspire many and are a testament to her strength and integrity." Anna Vassallo, accredited practicing dietitian" "[a] gripping memoir [the author's] voice rings throughout with a sense of honesty and the wisdom brought by retrospective reflection." Publishers Weekly" "Alford offers a candid and unsettling account of her struggles, and the added journal entries and photographs provide an intimate glimpse of an intelligent, gifted athlete unable to recognize the depth of her illness." Craig Clark"

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