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'I was in denial' - Meg Lanning reveals health battle that caused her international retirement

Former Australia captain says an unhealthy imbalance between obsessive exercise and not eating enough meant she was not cut out for international cricket any more

Alex Malcolm
Alex Malcolm
Meg Lanning gets teary announcing her retirement from international cricket  •  Getty Images

Meg Lanning gets teary announcing her retirement from international cricket  •  Getty Images

Former Australia captain Meg Lanning has revealed that an unhealthy obsession with exercise and not eating enough food had led to her sudden retirement from international cricket last year at the age of 31.
Lanning's exit from the international game had come as a shock. However, it was on the back of missing three international series in 2023, including the Women's Ashes, due to an undisclosed medical issue. Even when she retired in November she did not wish to reveal what she had been battling.
Lanning instead revealed her private health battle for the first time on the Howie Games podcast, explaining that she had experienced significant weight loss due to an obsession with exercise and an imbalanced diet that had caused her to be withdrawn from the 2023 Ashes.
"I was over-exercising and under-fuelling," Lanning said. "I got to the point where I was doing about 85-90km [running] a week. I was in denial.
"It became a bit of an obsession. It was because I could escape mentally. I would throw the headphones in, I wouldn't take my phone with me. I would have my Apple watch with me and listen to music. Nobody could contact me. I really liked that because I felt like I was in control.
"I felt like I was eating. I was still eating. But I'm much more aware of it now. I was not eating enough. I'd eat maybe a couple of meals a day if I was lucky and they weren't significant. It didn't start off as a deliberate thing. It just became a bit of a new normal.
"It sort of slowly crept into conscious decisions. Essentially I felt good. I was light. I could run heaps. I wasn't getting injured like everyone was telling me I was going to do. It almost became a bit of, 'I am going to show you' sort of thing.
"It sort of just spiralled and I was in denial. I got down to 57kg from 64kg. It wasn't ridiculous but it was significant. The ratios were out of whack. But it was the other things that I did not realise. It [affected] my ability to concentrate. I didn't really want to see other people. I disengaged a lot from friends and family. I didn't realise that I was doing this. It sort of became a new normal.
"I naturally would enjoy spending time by myself. I'm totally fine with that. But there would be very few people who I would want to engage with. I would get really snappy, real moody if anyone asked anything.
"I became a bit of a different person. Pretty hard to be around, I would say.
"I was not in a place to be able to go on tour and play cricket and give the commitment levels required for that Ashes series mentally and physically. So the decision was made with me in conjunction with the medical team to miss that tour."
Lanning was asked whether her obsession had developed into an eating disorder but she said her issue was not formally diagnosed as that.
"It was not labelled that but I was exercising a lot but not eating enough to fuel that. I was a bit out of whack," Lanning said. "I felt very out of control in terms of what my future looked like. If it's not cricket, what does life look like if I am not playing? How could I not want to travel the world and play cricket? That doesn't make any sense.
"So [my obsession] was a bit of control. I felt like I was in control of that."
Lanning said she eventually sought help from medical professionals to help get back on track to return to domestic cricket later in the year. She revealed that she had not told her teammates the full story but felt they suspected something was wrong.
"I think they knew something was up," Lanning said. "I couldn't see it in my appearance but [they] could see it. And everything that comes with it. The other behaviours as you settle into your new normal of not speaking to many people, being grumpy, not being able to concentrate, not sleeping. I pretty much wasn't sleeping.
"I got to the point where I dreaded night-time because I knew I would go to bed and not be able to sleep. That would make me so mad.
"I would just get more angry with myself because I couldn't sleep. And you can't do anything. At least during the day when I get a bit anxious, I can go for a run. That's what I was thinking. I can do that.
"Sleeping for a long time was a big struggle. But somehow I kept operating."
Lanning explained that her journey back started with just trying to get healthy again but said she is still fighting the battle. She revealed she had wrestled with telling her story given she is an intensely private person.
"I feel like I'm in a good spot now. Cricket is still part of what I do," Lanning said. "But I wasn't cut out for the international touring schedule and what came with all of that.
"What I have come to know is that everybody is always going through something, no matter how much they look like they have got things under control. And that was something that I felt like I was good at, looking like I had everything under control. And that's absolutely not the case.
"I've really started to understand how actually talking to people and letting people know can actually help."

Alex Malcolm is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo