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The 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? 

What follows is an excerpt from an excellent article from Sports Medicine with Elizabeth Quinn about Eating Disorders in Athletes

Eating Disorders in Athletes
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 rhythms.

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 to depression.

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 and weight.

Warning Signs of an Eating Disorder:

  • Preoccupation with food and weight 
  • Repeatedly expressed concerns about being fat 
  • Increasing criticism of one's body 
  • 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 health.

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