This article is co-written by Jimson Lee & Paul Hoffman
In my opinion, the biggest drug issue in College Sports is Alcohol.
The second biggest “best kept secret” issue is Eating Disorders. Primarily, athletes (mostly Women, but Men too) trying to lose weight, as well as the general public.
Ladies & Gentlemen, we have an image problem. From being brainwashed and how we should look like in magazines and TV, to the huge social media pressure on “looking good”.
For athletes, I’m not referring to weight category sports, and ‘making the weight’ such as weightlifting and boxing. I’m not referring to women’s gymnastics either where they force you to stay short (because a shorter body rotates better!).
I’m referring to athletes purposely harming & abusing themselves to ‘stay thin’ and light, so they can better their performance.
Lynn Davies, the 1964 Tokyo Olympics Long Jump gold medallist, quoted “If I look back and could change one thing about training, I would lose 10 lbs.”
Track & Field events is always about strength to weight ratio. That’s a lot of weight to carry for the 400m if it’s not useful “weight”. So the message is don’t carry any useless weight.
A cursory review of the literature on eating disorders among athletes reveals some startling statistics.
Up to 84% of collegiate athletes reported engaging in maladaptive eating and weight control behaviors, such as binge eating, excessive exercise, strict dieting, fasting, self-induced vomiting, and the use of weight loss supplements. This encompasses as many as 19% of males and 45% of females. The numbers for males and females respectively in endurance sports is 9% and 24%.
Many athletes have gone public with their struggles. Rachel Stiel, author of the self-help memoir “Running in Silence” has written:
“It all began with this thought that my appetite was ‘broken,’ ”
“That, maybe, if I just adjusted what and how much I ate, I would be ‘right’ again. I made these changes and lost weight. With weight loss, came the fastest times I had ever run in my life.”
“It all began with this thought that my appetite was ‘broken’ ”
Two years ago, three runners, Heather Caplan, Alexis Fairbanks and Samantha Strong, created a nonprofit organization, Lane 9 Project, that is dedicated to bringing awareness to the prevalence of eating disorders among athletes. All three women experienced hypothalamic amenorrhea, the lack of menstruation, as a result of harmful relationships with food and sport.
A notable article on the subject was written by Andrea Walkonen, a former three time All-American in cross country and track.
In the article, she highlights four main points:
- I stopped comparing myself to EVERYONE ELSE.
- I let go of the idea that I have to be perfect.
- I decided not to be afraid of change.
- I asked for help, and I accepted it when it was offered to me.
Help is readily available at https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/help-support/contact-helpline.
Disordered Eating Workshop Video
Here is another fantastic video from Athletics Australia.