Price of Success
We whisper about it, but
rarely do we want to discuss it in public. It is an
embarrassing side effect of running, and we want to deny
it. We would rather have people see us as the successful,
balanced athlete we are. But all too often, this dirty
secret will surface in our ranks.
What I refer to is eating
disorders. And this affects more of us than we wish to
admit. Weight is such a touchy subject. Being overweight
is a curse, a source of punishment by the masses. But to
be thin this is what we all strive for.
I remember a point in my
life when my weight was up, and I remember thinking, if I
were thinner, I would be happy. What is the price you pay
for this thinness? Do you starve? Do you exercise
excessively? Do you binge and purge?
We have all paid some sort
of price for our success as runners. If we have eating
disorders, just what is the price?
Both men and women are susceptible to eating disorders,
although a greater percent of eating disorders are found
in women, possibly due to the social pressures to be thin.
The three most common eating disorders found in athletes
are anorexia, bulimia, and compulsive exercise.
The real threat to an athlete with
an eating disorder is the extreme stress placed upon the
body. The very practice of self-starvation, purging or
obsessive exercise has a detrimental effect on
performance. The binge-purge process results in loss of
fluid and low potassium levels, which can cause extreme
weakness, as well as dangerous and sometimes lethal heart
Women athletes with eating disorders
often fit into the so-called The Female Athlete Triad
which is disordered eating, osteoporosis and loss of
menses or amenorrhea. Many athletes mistakenly think
they're not at risk for osteoporosis because they
exercise, and exercise is known to strengthen bones.
Research shows that exercise alone does not prevent bone
loss. Irreversible bone loss starts within six months to
two years of the loss of menses. Another negative
consequence of eating disorders is the close association
Identifying athletes with an eating
disorder is not easy. They are often secretive or blame
their eating and exercise regimen on their training goals.
More patients are identified by perceptive coaches or team
mates, friends or family members who notice an athlete
losing weight, purposelessly exercising outside their
training regimen or becoming overly preoccupied with food
Warning Signs of an Eating Disorder:
Preoccupation with food and
Repeatedly expressed concerns about
Increasing criticism of one's
Frequent eating alone
Use of laxatives
Trips to the bathroom during or
following meals Continuous drinking of diet soda or
water Compulsive, excessive exercise
Complaining of always being cold
Eating disorders in an athlete are
serious and can become life threatening if left untreated.
Identifying the type of eating disorder is essential to
get the right help.
If you would like more
information, check out the pages on eating disorders
and related conditions at About.com.
If you are suffering with it, try to
do something about it to save your health down the line.
Success at racing is not contingent
upon lowest body fat and abnormal eating. Make sure that
your training is not at the expense of your health. And if
you want to make comments, check out the message board on