‘It Steals Everything from You:’ Taylor Ruck Details Struggle With Eating Disorder

Taylor Ruck; Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

“It Steals Everything from You:” Taylor Ruck Details Struggle With Eating Disorder

Taylor Ruck, a two-time Canadian Olympian, has struggled with an eating disorder in the years since her Olympic debut in Rio in 2016, she revealed in an interview Friday.

Ruck, 21, was one of the athletes profiled by Toronto’s Globe and Mail in an expansive investigation into eating disorders among elite Canadian athletes. The article calls disordered eating “one of the most widely identified yet underdiagnosed problems inside the national teams and their feeder systems.” The headline labels it a “troubling” prevalence.

Ruck is far from alone: The Globe and Mail cited a University of Toronto study of 1,000 current and recently retired national team athletes across a variety of sports in which 21 percent reported an eating disorder. That’s alarmingly higher than the national average of 3 percent.

Ruck developed a routine of binging and purging and was fixated on her weight. Things intensified in 2018, trying to train as much as she could and minimize the calories she took in. She lost nearly 20 pounds off her 6-foot frame.

“I characterize myself as a pretty happy person, and I’d say I was more unhappy than not when I was eating less than I should have,” Ruck said. “And it kind of got to the point where I was having suicidal thoughts.”

Ruck is a prominent member of the ascendant generation of Canadian female swimmers. She joined fellow 16-year-old Penny Oleksiak in Rio as part of squads that earned bronze in both the 400 free and 800 free relays. Ruck was part of the breakout contingent at the 2017 World Junior Championships, winning six golds in Indianapolis (five relays plus the 200 freestyle). She’d won World Junior titles in the 100 and 200 free in 2015.

After the success of Rio, and with a looming college career at Stanford, the pressure began to build. She finished fifth in the 200 free and fifth in the 200 back at Worlds in 2019 to go with three relay bronzes.

But training disruptions around an Olympic deferral affected her performance in 2021, exacerbated by what she was suffering behind the scenes. After a tremendous freshman year at Stanford, she took an Olympic redshirt for 2019-20, then returned to Toronto in the fall of 2020 to prepare for the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Games. In January 2021, she was provisionally selected for the Olympics in the 100 free, though she wouldn’t end up swimming that event.

She struggled mightily at a pair of test events in May. At Canadian Olympic Trials in late June, she recovered from a slow prelims swim to finish second in the 100 back, albeit a second slower than her best time. She was 12th in the 200 free, more than four seconds slower than her best, scratched the 50 free and finished fifth in the 100 free. After finishing second in the 200 back, albeit 2.5 seconds off her best time, the decision was made for her to focus on backstroke.

She battled in Tokyo, finishing ninth in the 100 back and sixth in the 200. She earned a silver medal for swimming prelims in the 400 free relay and bronze for prelims of the medley relay.

“It steals everything from you,” she said. “There’s no room for anything else in your brain.”

Ruck cited, among other pressures, remarks by coaches about her physique as adding pressure. Many other athletes pointed to such stressors – some said in passing, some codified in institutional practices – as contributing.

“We certainly have to be better at identifying it and hopefully supporting it,” John Atkinson, Swimming Canada’s high-performance director, told the Globe and Mail. “We can all be better; we can all improve.”

Part of Ruck’s desire to share her story is hopeful, for her and for others, that things can improve with more informed attention on the problem.

“There’s strength in a story that can impact other people and help them live better lives,” Ruck said. “This interview, it’s important for that same reason.”

 Read the full story on Taylor Ruck here.

Notify of

Welcome to our community. We invite you to join our discussion. Our community guidelines are simple: be respectful and constructive, keep on topic, and support your fellow commenters. Commenting signifies that you agree to our Terms of Use

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x