National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is February 23-28th 2015 and this year is including Athletes with the slogan "I had no idea that my passion had became my problem."
Take note as perhaps even you or a cross training buddy could well be at risk as this problem is far more prevalent than previously suspected. We often get so caught up in "performance" that we may skip whole food groups or meals and the important nutrients they offer in order to gain an "edge".
As a Certified Nutritional Consultant, I've seen my share of client/patients with eating disorders, most of them young women but a few men as well. Please understand that it is a complex psycho/physiological disorder that most family doctors are ill equipped to diagnose or treat. Not because they are inept but primarily because: 1.) medical doctors receive little or very basic nutritional training. 2.) They may simply not see all the signs especially when the patient is being deceitful.
3.) This is a psychological disorder and may not be their primary discipline.
One thing I've seen as a common thread in many eating disorder patients is a need for iron grip control and an unrealistic quest for perfection.That pretty much defines many an athlete! So you can see how we can be set up mentally for similar problems.
Some things I've learned for both my patients and myself (nutritionist, heal thyself!) are helpful as I've also been a fashion model for a number of years, (see my Vanity Fair Looks Page) and pretty much seen it all. Here are some ideas, not treatments for keeping a healthy attitude when cross training. PLEASE see a mental health professional trained to deal with such issues if you feel that you have an eating disorder. Just to get started, you can anonymously take an online screening to see if you are at risk for disordered eating HERE.
|Running on Empty?|
It's Seldom All About the Food
You know the person I'm talking about. One week they make an announcement that they are vegan, next week they are a RAW vegan, then gluten free, lactose free, nut free....the list goes on and on. It's really not about the food but the attention they get when they engage in "food shaming" anyone who isn't on their current program. Don't fuel this need. This is more about excluding foods which is a hallmark of an eating disorder. If they want to sit there with a stalk of broccoli while you eat a steak (grass fed and lean I hope), let it go. Share how good and healthy you feel with your food choices and don't be quick to hop on the next food trend yourself. When we become rigid and inflexible about anything, compulsion isn't too far down the road.
|Enjoying a grilled salmon pattie with a cheddar scone and organic white wine.|
Track But Don't Obsess Over Performance
With all the FitBits, heart rate monitors and cadence meters, it's easy to get too focused on the minutia while losing sight of the big picture. That would be how you FEEL while on a run, walk or bike ride. Your time may vary but so do things you CAN'T control like: wind speed/direction, road conditions, heat index, humidity, hydration issues,etc. Expecting to perform or even best your last workout is setting yourself up for disappointment. Don't fall for that. You are headed in the RIGHT direction by showing up for your workout no matter what the power meter may say.
|Outside variables will effect your performance from day to day.|
I know the importance of this from lifting weights for many years. If you do not take a routine break in your schedule, you are simply increasing inflammation and scar tissue, not building new muscle. Same for any other fitness activity with perhaps the exception of ballet barre-work or stretching. The key is to switch it up so that you are NOT over-taxing the same muscles, tendons and joints day after day with no breaks. Besides. It's boring.
|Take a break from your usual workout|
Refuel With The Right Foods
You also have to make sure that your diet has enough amino acids, the building blocks of protein, to support optimal muscle growth. I have a protein shake nearly every morning before my workout and then some oatmeal and Quinoa afterwards for breakfast. Even on my off days I'm building and repairing muscle for proper recovery and to make improvements next time.
Foods to Include:
I also mix it up with lots of raw, colorful fruits and vegetables, dark berries, whole organic grains, nuts, fatty fish, whole eggs and a small amount of lean meat, yogurt & cheese. These will help keep your system alkaline and less prone to inflammation issues. Calcium is also important. Did you know that when your body has a sufficient amount of calcium, it will actually burn MORE fat for energy? A Danish study also showed participants who ate low fat yogurt each day excreted more fat from their intestinal tracts. So deficiencies can work against your fitness goals in a major way.
|Quinoa topped with dried cranberries and walnuts.|
Not just protein but the lack of other key nutrients in a balanced training table diet can show up as:
- Slow growing or easily broken nails
- Slowed hair growth or hair is falling out in clumps
- Skipped or completely absent menstrual cycles
- Bruising easily (lack of enough Vitamin C)
- Lethargy or chronic tiredness
- Feeling cold even in warm conditions
- Lanugo or soft, fuzzy-fine hair on your face and body can indicate malnutrition
- Easily fractured/breaking bones
Here is the "Get in the Know" section for Athletes from the National Eating Disorders Awareness website which will give you more insight and statistics for this segment of the population. Visit the NEDA website HERE for more information:
Athletes and Eating Disorders
Body image problems, disordered eating and full-blown eating disorders are common among athletes. Though most athletes with eating disorders are female, male athletes are also at risk—especially those competing in sports such as wrestling, bodybuilding, gymnastics, and running, which tend to place an emphasis on the athlete’s diet, appearance, size, and weight requirements.
In a study of Division 1 NCAA athletes, over one-third of female athletes reported attitudes and symptoms placing them at risk for anorexia nervosa (Johnson, Powers, et al, 1999). In weight-class and aesthetic sports about 33% of males and up to 62% of females are affected by an eating disorder (Thompson, PhD. 2010). The good news is that with information and awareness, coaches, parents and teammates can all play an important role in confronting eating disorders and ensuring that athletics are a positive experience for everyone.