Disordered Eating & Athletes
As a sports nutritionist, I deal with athletes who want to eat to perform. Many of them come to me in a current struggle of disordered eating. This isn’t at all uncommon. Athletes in all sport disciplines, genders and ages are susceptible to falling into the trap of becoming obsessed with achieving the ‘perfect’ body in order to perform better. It’s an old and uncommon story; disordered body image and unrealistic body composition goals lead to under eating, leads to weight loss, leads to boosted short term performance, leads to even less eating in hopes of further weight loss and boosted performance, leads to nutrient deficiencies, leads to starvation and stalled weight loss, leads to inability to perform, leads to injury. This is the simplified version but truthful version. I am able to look at disordered athletic eating from an honest, unemotional place now, as a professional, but years ago, I was right there in the thick of it myself. I underrate. I was obsessed with weighing less. I starved. I got results. Until my body could no longer function on what I was doing to it and I ended up clinically nutrient deficient, with low bone density, and eventually injured badly enough to have that lightbulb moment go off. Mind you, I was not losing weight at this point. I was not clinically underweight. I’m pointing this out for a reason. Many athletes think that because they are not losing weight that they are still eating too much. Sure, on the surface that makes sense, but it doesn’t actually work that way. Athletes have huge energy demands and when you refuse to fuel them, it eventually creates a type of starvation where your body is going to hold on to every calorie. Meaning you don’t lose weight and your body cannot expend energy to perform. Lose Lose. Yet so many athletes refuse to acknowledge this and continue to starve themselves in hopes that the weight will eventually come off.
To prove my point and create some awareness of this situation for a client going thru this very struggle, I was putting together resources and decided to share it with everyone.
So here is a list of articles of pro/elite athletes that can attest to starving your body to achieve a too thin, too lean body only backfires.
Let me say that this list could go on forever. Seriously, just google search ‘disordered eating and athletes’. Ask your athlete friends. Take a hard look at your own body perceptions and eating habits. Disordered eating is often over looked as being a big deal because the habits are not clinically diagnosed and a full blown eating disorder, many of the sufferers are not underweight, and the habits are so common in the elite/pro athlete scene that it becomes totally normal. Some disordered eating habits include (not limited to) thinking one food is bad or off limits, restricting intake, thinking you’ll be faster if you just lose weight, consuming very little without seeing weight loss, filling up on only vegetables, turning to diet or low cal/sugar/fat foods, being preoccupied with thoughts of ‘what to eat’, etc… This is not okay because not only will it hurt your health but it will backfire on your performance goals. Yes, as an athlete hoping to get awesome results you have to focus on your nutrition and yes, that might involve losing weight, but there are balanced, healthful ways to do this. If you are struggling to have a healthy food – body – performance relationship, please contact me to get your nutrition habits on track and in line to meet your performance goals!