#NEDAwareness - athletes, evalute your relationship with food

Before a race, after a workout, at work, around your training buddies, in the bathroom, with your family/kids, when trying on clothes.....
How often do you criticize your body?

Before a race, after a workout, at work, around your training buddies, in the bathroom, with your family/kids, when trying on clothes.....
How often do you feel guilty or hate what/how you are eating? 

There are millions of people affected with an eating disorder at sometime in their lifetime however, eating disorders are often termed a silent epidemic. Some individuals never get the help they truly and live decades feeling overwhelmed or anxious around food or feel uncomfortable in their own skin. Others choose to remain quite in treatment and eventually gain the strength, tools and support they need to recover and to live a quality filled life with a healthy body and mind. 

It's no surprise that in a body and food obsessed society, it's not very easy to maintain healthy relationship with food and the body,,,,, and this needs to change.
Eating disorders are starting earlier in life. By the age of 6, girls are expressing concerns about their weight. 40-60% girls (ages 6-12) are concerned about their weight or becoming fat.  Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. And if not treated, an eating disorder can stay with an individual for a lifetime.

About 99% of my career is dedicated to athletes, specifically endurance triathletes and runners. I not only help athletes learn how to eat and fuel to boost performance but I also help athletes learn how to develop a healthier relationship with food and the body.  I work with all levels from age groupers to professionals, men and women, and the young and the inspiring older population too.
I spend my entire day around food and exercise.
 All my focus and attention is centered around a body in motion and how food and sport nutrition products enhance performance.

But when I am not being a sport RD, I am an athlete. And I love being an athlete.
As a life-long competitive swimmer turned runner turned triathlete, I have used my body in amazing ways and have learned so much through competitive sports. I have improved self-esteem, I've learned how to overcome obstacles, I have made great friendships, I love the endorphin rush when I train and race, I see how hard work pays off and most of all, the skills, dedication and commitment I have with my training also helps me in life.

But as athletes, the same traits that make us great at our sport can also trigger disordered eating patterns and struggles with the body image. Some athletes can spend a career or lifetime without even a negative thought about the body or food but for many, the strong messages in our society about diet and body composition can make it extremely difficult for many athletes to navigate their way to a healthy relationship with food and the body.

Even though athletes are more prone to eating disorders, sports do not cause eating disorders. There are triggers and traits that can predispose an athlete to disordered eating. An athlete who wants to tone-up, improve lean muscle mass, lose weight, get faster or improve health can certainly work with a sport RD and make changes in the body composition in a healthy way through correct training and an appropriate fueling and daily diet regime. But if "healthy" habits become an obsession, disordered eating can very quickly turn into an eating disorder. At this point, an athlete is at great risk for injury, undernourishment, hormonal disorders, burnout and a sporting career cut short.

Eating disorders and disordered eating are not limited to the leanest athletes or just to female athletes. As a goal oriented and driven athlete, you may naturally have a different idea of what your body should look in order to perform well and you are likely very in-tune with what you eat because food is your fuel. There may be nothing wrong with your diet or eating habits and this "ideal" weight that you want to achieve, may even be healthy and achievable. But there is a right, safe way to eating in order to perform well and a wrong, unhealthy and impractical way to chase a body image.

But in a society that waits patiently for the next exciting way to eliminate food from the diet, us athletes need to be extremely careful to separate main stream media "diet" fads with the obligation we have to fuel our bodies in motion. 

               The March issue of Triathlete Magazine is filled with a lot of great info on how to train and race smarter. In the issue, you will also see my recent article titled "Eat to Thrive".

Did you know that it is not easy to pitch an article about disordered eating habits in active individuals, let alone in athletes?  The topic is not hot, current or trendy so it's easy to be viewed as a 'possibility' and not as a 'necessity'.

Even though I specialize in an area that affects so many athletes, rarely do we read, hear or discuss the topic of an unhealthy relationship but there needs to be more information on this topic so that athletes do not miss out on reaching their full potential and risking serious setbacks from not fueling a body in motion properly.  

Although diet fads, food elimination and race weight seem to be normal topics for magazines, I am incredibly grateful to my editor friends at Triathlete magazine for accepting my topic pitch and for giving me the opportunity to contribute to the magazine on a topic that I am very passionate about. 

Have you ever considered that your current relationship with food can serve either as a limiter or enhancer to your training and racing performance and overall health?

If you want to eat to thrive, check out my article in the March issue of Triathlete Magazine on page 88-89 to discover three possible red flags with your current relationship with food and how you should address them to make improvements in your overall health and fitness. 

Also - Thank you Ironman and Charisa Wernick for recently providing insight on a topic that is very personal to many and rarely discussed on main stream media, on sporting websites and in magazines. This is a topic that many can relate to and involves many issues that affect athletes of all sports and of all fitness levels, genders and ages.

"When I lost weight I got more compliments and sometimes improved in sports, which fueled my desire to lose even more. I also got injured more. I lived in a world where calories ruled my thoughts and I didn't have the time (or energy) to think about much else. It's a horrible escape, but somehow it went on for way too many years.

Rather than hating my body I started to appreciate it for the fun adventures it carried me through on a daily basis." - Charisa Wernick