Posts Tagged “Athletes”
The Impact of Eating Disorders on Athletic Performance
The benefits of athletics are well-established. Participating in organized sports can help you build self-esteem, recognize the value of teamwork, set the foundation for a lifelong physical activity practice, improve mental health, promote social connections, open the doorway for scholarships or even a career, and teach important life skills, such as goal-setting and leadership.
However, these positive outcomes come with an important caveat. The pressures of athletic competition and the emphasis many sports place on body weight, shape, and size can contribute to psychological and physical stress. For individuals naturally predisposed to eating disorders, these stressors can be a tipping point into disordered territory.
Athletes frequently experience diminishing returns from disordered habits like restrictive dieting and over-training. Although it can be difficult for an athlete to step away from their sport, pursuing treatment increases their likelihood of safely returning—and can be lifesaving. Coaches, parents, teammates, and providers have a critical role in ensuring athletes are prioritized over the sport. Understanding the risks athletes face is key to providing preventative support.
Juggling Priorities: Navigating Eating Disorder Treatment and Extracurricular Commitments
Your child starts exhibiting the signs of an eating disorder. You contact an eating disorder treatment center for help and receive a level of care recommendation that fits their needs. But you are unsure whether treatment is the right choice for your child at the moment. After all, they’ve made commitments to various groups, clubs, and sports—all activities that seem to be really good for them.
Understandably, you don’t want them to miss out on the extracurriculars they love. Maybe treatment can wait until the season ends, you think. Perhaps after the last game, band concert, dance recital, robotics competition, etc. If you take them out of the play, the soccer season, their choir group, you might wonder, how will they manage? The activity seems to be the only thing they engage in, the only thing that brings them joy—what if this makes things worse?
It’s understandable to have concerns about interrupting these activities. However, recovery can benefit not only your child’s overall health but also their ability to fully enjoy and excel in their extracurricular pursuits.
Episode 75: Eating Disorders in Running with Rachael Steil
In this episode of Peace Meal, Rachael Steil shares her past struggles with anorexia and binge eating and her current passion for helping athletes with eating disorders. Rachael loved running from a young age, but the drive she felt to improve in her sport contributed to restrictive eating behaviors. She says she became obsessed with food and started pulling away from her friends and hobbies. Once Rachael started her recovery journey, she received incredible support from her college running coach. Reflecting on this experience, Rachael explains the essential role that coaches can have on their athletes’ lives and the importance of educating coaches on eating disorder warning signs. Rachael ends the podcast with the inspiration for creating her memoir Running in Silence and her nonprofit of the same name and previews the topic of her next book.
Rachael Steil is an eating disorder recovery advocate and the author of Running in Silence, which details her story as an All-American athlete struggling with anorexia and binge eating. She is also the founder of the Running in Silence nonprofit to break misconceptions and raise awareness for eating disorders in sports, serves on the board of the Michigan Eating Disorder Alliance, and is currently a mentor for the USTFCCCA Female Coaches Mentorship Program.
Episode 71: Figure Skating and Eating Disorders with Nichole Soltis
Nichole Soltis recently earned her master’s degree from The University of Akron and is now a licensed therapist in the state of Ohio. A long-time figure skater, she will be competing at her second Adult National Championships this month. She has a passion for eating disorders and their impact on athletes, and she hopes to use her platform to spread awareness, support others, and start the conversation about eating disorders and sports.
In this episode of Peace Meal, Nichole discusses how her passion for figure skating played a role in the development and maintenance of her eating disorder, as well as how she was able to get back on the ice after treatment. Delving first into the complicated relationship between aesthetic sports and eating disorders, she shares how restricting her food did not improve her skating performance in the way her eating disorder promised it would. Instead, it negatively affected not just her sport, but also her physical and mental health. Through recovery, Nichole learned that nourishing her body and working on her technique was the best thing for her skating performance. Now as a therapist passionate about supporting athletes, she encourages all coaches to get their athletes professional help if they notice the warning signs of an eating disorder. Nicole ends the conversation by assuring any athletes struggling with an eating disorder that getting help can mean enjoying life, food, and their sport once again.
Recognizing Eating Disorders in Athletes
Being an athlete can often come with all kinds of pressure. Pressure to perform the best, pressure to win, and pressure to have your body look a certain way. All of this pressure and emphasis on the body contributes to the disproportionately high rates of eating disorders in athletes. In this blog, we explain the risk factors and warning signs of eating disorders in athletes, as well as the importance of valuing the person over their performance.
Episode 50: Food is More Than a Nutrition Label with Kenzie Osborne
Kenzie Osborne is a mental health blogger, chef, recipe developer, and former NCAA athlete. After battling intensely with anorexia, she was able to find peace with food through cooking, traveling, and learning about the many benefits food has on the mind, spirit, and body.
Kenzie shares her story with us in this episode of Peace Meal. We begin by discussing a label long attached to her—“the healthy and fit one”—and its impact on her identity. A daughter of doctors and sister to high-performing athletes, she felt immense pressure as part of a family defined by health and athletics.
“That’s who [others] knew my family was. That’s who they expected me to be,” she reflects. “And I felt like when I lived up to those expectations, I was accepted and I was praised, and I would get really positive feedback.”
As Kenzie’s “healthy” eating and exercise were validated, her eating disorder grew stronger, and its impact was far-reaching. Terrified and unable to be present around food, she missed out on social events. She faced health complications. Her wellbeing, her athletic performance—her life—suffered. Still, as it often is in a culture that normalizes disordered eating, it was hard to recognize that she had a serious illness.