Calling All Runners and Athletes!

And just like that, we are almost done with Moan-Day! I got this from Caitlin’s (Healthy Tipping Point) post this morning, made me laugh 🙂

I am currently sitting in one of my favorite places ever, Barnes and Noble!!!, and writing a paper. Let me first say that Barnes and Noble, Borders, or really any other book store, is my favorite place to do work. There is usually a cafe, plenty of books if I need references, and when I need a break- people watching is the best!

The only problem is being distracted by huge magazine rack, or really any other book available to read. Must. Focus. Now.

While I am procrastinating actually writing this paper, I am thinking about it at least! This is for my Nutrition and Public Health class and I am researching about a subject near and dear to me, disordered eating among female athletes. I am focusing on college-level athletes, but also am discussing the trends among regular ones, although only in women (sorry guys!).

If you Google, “disordered eating and athletes,” there are overwhelming results. Overall, these indicate there are higher levels of eating related issues among female athletes as compared to those that are more inactive. This makes sense to me: there are pressures not only from our society to become thin, but also there are certain sports that put pressure on performers to meet a certain weight criteria.

Running is a sport largely related to this. Many elite female runners are lean, mean, fighting machines, with very little body fat.


Elite Runners Before a Race

A person that is attempting to get to elite levels might draw the conclusion that the thinner you are= the faster you run. Although there have been studies that showed how weight loss does impact race times, these are only geared toward people that have some extra weight to lose. Check out this Runner’s World article for a more detailed explanation.Unfortunately, some women may learn this information and take it into the extreme, leading to a restrictive calorie intake and setting themselves up for menstrual loss and osteoporosis at a young age.

From personal experience of being a member of my school’s cross country and track team, I have seen the pressure to be thin among my teammates. I can remember on the very first day of practice, a girl was there that was so thin, her legs looked like sticks and she was shivering in the 80-degree weather of September. Eventually she admitted to restricting because she though it would make her run faster. With intervention methods such as requiring her to eat a specific number of calories and education on adequate nutrition and sports performance, she has recovered, gained weight and is running quite fast now.

I have also succumbed to the pressures of meeting a certain weight, as I have discussed in my “About Me” page and “Running” page. Although my obsession with food occurred long before i began runner, last summer I figured losing weight meant I would run faster. Initially this did occur, but my inadequate calorie intake caught up with me and I was constantly feeling fatigues and my performance steadily got worse.

Too Thin For ME!

When an athlete goes on a “diet” and begins to restrict their intake, it actually might look like they are eating normally. Yet they are not taking in adequate calories to meet the demands of their practices or training runs, and their performance will inevitably decline.

For example, on days when I go on my long runs, I now eat like a horse after! I am usually so hungry the entire day and continuous snacking on proper nutritious items helps me to recover. I might look like I am eating excess amounts to a non-athlete, which is why this could go unnoticed from someone who is suffering with food-related issues.

So for my essay, I would love to hear other people’s stories or opinions on this! Beyond influence from images of our culture in magazines, TV, Internet, etc, have you ever felt pressure as an athlete to look a certain way for the sport? Or have you seen this among friends?


Filed under Disorded Thoughts, Disordered Eating, Fitness, Fuel, Recovery, Running, Serious Stuff, UMASS

4 responses to “Calling All Runners and Athletes!

  1. Hey !
    First off…i too love barnes and noble and borders for the SAME reason, and consider them my study spots. I used to look forward to finishing a book just so i could browse either book store to find a new one. Now, I have a kindle so I do the same thing on Amazon haha.

    I definitely have a personal story on this! My freshman year summer we had to do our cross country training at home. At this time I became obsessed with running because I was starting to drop so much time and lose weight. Silly me, I correlated the two and thought that I was running well because I was dropping pounds, it NEVER occured to me that I was putting in the hard work to get those fast times. Well I ended up probably in the negative caloric intake because I would run ten miles a day with a diet that was mostly fruit. Once the season started I got in maybe a week of practices when my calf started to hurt insanely bad. I thought it was just a pulled muscle but turns out, it had been literally “eating itself” and wearing down because my body needed to get calories from somewhere and it chose my big juicy calves.

    Hope that was helpful, it was definitely a learning experience for me!

    • Thank you for sharing your experience! What you wrote is seriously EXACTLY how i felt when training! I was making sure to get speed workouts in which of course helped to boost my speed, except like you I correlated this with losing weight. 😦
      How distorted our thoughts can become sometimes!
      Haha the end of your post made me chuckle, “big juicy calves!” I’m sure they were never like that 🙂

  2. I definitely think there is a lot of pressure for certain appearances and to be “healthy” which can easily be taken to the extreme.

    • Yes, it can definitely be taken to the extreme! With more research to my paper, I have read that the “aesthetic sports” such as ballet, gymnastics, dance, and swimming are more likely to have athletes with eating-related issues.

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