On Eating Disorders And Being An Athlete In The Midst…

I appreciated receiving this article, written by Karen Crouse, which speaks to a very real problem in sports. It is also – I should point out – scarcely relegated to figure skating (the topic of the article) and related performing or aesthetic sports such as dancing, bodybuilding, and the like.  Rather, it has a much broader (and frankly insidious) grip on athletes around the globe. 

Eating disorders were something I grew up knowing plenty about – I was classically trained in ballet for over ten years, competitively figure skated for about sixteen years, and danced competitively in International Latin and American Smooth ballroom for seven years. In those arenas, thin is ALWAYS in.

Yikes.

Can weight make a difference in performance? Yes, absolutely. When it comes to one’s joints, or one’s ability to do the particularly acrobatic and athletic jumps and spins, it’s important we are at a weight healthy for our frame. Figure skating, for one, is a high impact sport and that takes a toll even on a healthy body. When we are unhealthy, those negative side effects can be multiplied many fold. However, a lot of it – a sometimes far heftier percentage – is about the “look.” And, when it becomes about our appearance, things can go downhill very quickly…

It isn’t only that I, like many athletes, was “young and impressionable” at the time – top athletes generally ARE on the younger side (remember that part about impact on the body?) Athletes begin training early, so there is certainly danger in implanting these injurious notions early on.

What is also a real issue, however, is that a focus on a person’s “weight” can suddenly have bearing on whether or not you are even “considered” for a winning position – that will change your tune pretty quick if you have goals of any kind. (Deny politics play a role in results? You’re kidding yourself!)

In ballroom, for example, if you aren’t groomed properly, you simply aren’t taken seriously. Period. It’s as easy as that. I’m not putting it down, I was in it…and LOVED it. But it was a horrible hassle, and I knew I didn’t really have a choice. Before a competition I needed to be:

  • Spray tanned…TWICE (because my pale skin wasn’t in)
  • Have my nails done (as in, they needed to be long and noticeable)
  • Have my hair professionally done every time I competed (multiple days, means days of hair-doing)
  • Professional makeup (fortunately I did this myself, but then half my suitcase was makeup I had to lug)
  • Make sure I was as fit as could be (wearing next to nothing / very revealing costumes…yes, people would notice if you gained a little extra. And they wouldn’t be shy about mentioning it)

Those things were prerequisites.  Then you added to that judge preferences like wearing tan fishnets or stockings (okay, no big deal, that helped “pull me in” a little so I stayed slim in that tiny costume…) But it was rough because if you didn’t take those “suggestions” you often were out of the running…before you even took the floor. No, I’m not kidding. Figure skating was a little less harsh on that front, but the pressure to “lose a little” was definitely an undercurrent.

I remember going to skating camp at Simsbury’s International Skating Center of Connecticut. I was in my mid to later teens (definitely the mesomorph of the group!) and I recall – very clearly – the younger skaters being worried about gaining weight. They wouldn’t eat ice cream, they would ask for coffee (at that age?!) with skim milk… They wouldn’t have chips…. Even back at our dorms, some would skip breakfast because they didn’t want to have too much (more Lucky Charms and Golden Grahams for me?)

Let me be clear, I am ALL about healthy, clean eating – it’s not about how I look so much as how it makes my body feel. My body is a “finely-tuned machine,” according to my doc, and it tells me what it needs. But when you are FIGURE SKATING…for HOURS A DAY…you burn more than a Clydesdale! I mean, it was craziness!!! These kids were WAY too young to worry about weight, not a single one had any inkling of a problem (which could impact joints, as athletic as skating can be), and they couldn’t enjoy themselves as a result – it was heartbreaking!

Now a days, the pressures are – apparently – still there. It was eye-opening to read that Brian Boitano (an idol I watched win his gold when I was ten years-old) was very much subjected to this, and wasn’t actually at peak performance (very likely) at that time. Hard to believe if you saw those jumps! It’s also saddening to hear that Adam Rippon has struggled with this as well. I love that they are open about it because eating disorders carry a lot of shame with them – speaking up and making it known that we are not alone can be enough to save someone afflicted from a life of suffering.

My disorders – Anorexia and Exercise Bulimia / Anorexia Athetica – were a result of something very different, but they nearly devoured me whole too. I thankfully managed to cruise through my sports both unscathed and unapologetically…but I was acutely aware of the oft-unspoken-about illnesses in the background. Having suffered through it later, knowing full well how damaging and dangerous such sickness can be, was testament to how powerful these diseases are… 

For many of athletes, body image is tightly wound around performance. . .which is tightly bound to our identities. Sometimes – to add fuel to the fire – that can be perpetuated by the people we look up to or rely on in the sport, as well as tied to our future success.

It’s a struggle to see the “good” sometimes – to see how strong we are, how well we are doing… It’s even harder to recognize…and then ADMIT…when we aren’t fueling ourselves the way we need to. I recently took back to the ice (on a VERY minor scale) but I’ll tell you…my legs are different. I can see it, I can feel it, and my body is asking for more carbohydrates and food. And…that’s what I give it if I need to. But like Adam Rippon, the mind will make a point to call out that we are doing something different – It’s like an internal guilt trip from the Ghost of Athletics Past!

Eating disorders are terrifying – like other addictive illnesses, they have the power to completely derail us, if not end our lives completely. While I refrain from “talking politics,” and don’t much care for celebrities shouting out their messages at the top of their lungs…there is some benefit in this particular arena. It is important to be honest and open because eating disorders are often highly isolating – we begin to decay on our own, and keep everyone at a distance while we whither away. The knowledge that we aren’t alone in our struggles it might help others find the strength and courage to seek treatment – one life saved is one life saved!

Truth be told, having had no one to look to during my own…? I would have LOVED to have this kind of hope to grab onto… 

 

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Holiday 2016 – MAC Nutcracker Sweet

I’m a little bit partial to the Nutcracker because I grew up being classically trained – 10 years of ballet, and you’ll see ten years of the Nutcracker around the holidays…if not more (once a dancer, always a dancer.)  I desperately wanted to be in it, actually, and a friend and fellow dancer was – spectacular!

MAC is embracing the fun and festivities with a Holiday Nutcracker-inspired Collection – Sweet as can be.  For details, check out Chicprofile, who shares the full list of goodies, and a few more images. A little tricky to see all of the items clearly, given the bold pink patterning of dots and stripes but…anyway!  Personally, I love the Pro Longwear Paint Pot in Stormy Pink, a muted grey-purple hue.  I feel like it would add a barely-there depth (not a new shade, so much, but sometimes they aren’t!)

Chicprofile.com

MAC image

Martial Arts – Beyond Than Being An Athlete

Being a Martial Artist isn’t completely akin to being just an athlete – while both designations require a high physical demand in combination with mental focus, there is – in my own mind – a level of spiritual attunement that takes Martial Arts a step further.

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I’ve been an athlete my whole life – for better or worse I have always identified myself with my athletic endeavors.  Extracurricular activities were equally as committed to as my studies growing up – I didn’t train here or there, I was “on” five to seven days a week, multiple hours a day, interspersing my training with homework and school time.  To many, I didn’t “have a life.”  I still managed to get to sleepovers and do “kid” things, but I was up well before the group and off to the ice rink while they still caught their Zs.  

I guess there were a few days I minded – in the dead of winter, 5 am looks a lot like midnight…and it feels that way too!  But MOST of the time, I loved it.  I had my own routine, and my own sense of uniqueness.  I felt empowered, strong, and enjoyed having the physical outlet for my ridiculous Geminian energy, and my sometimes awkward way with expression (that is to say, movement was as much a language to me as English!  Ask a dancer, and he or she will understand what I mean.)  Other kids maybe slept later, or hung out until the wee hours when I had to be back in bed…but at the end of the day, being an “athlete” meant more to me than being like everyone else.  

My circle of friends was relatively small, no question – there were days when I wondered what it was like being the most popular kid in class but. . . It was short-lived.  The prospect of worrying more about what I wore to school every day didn’t really have room on my list of things to do, nor did who asked who out – I simply wasn’t on that wavelength. My best friends very much included my coach, a skating buddy or two, my parents, and a gymnast. Oh!  And I had a horse riding friend also.  Shocking, I know – another athlete!  Life wasn’t exactly the same for us as it was our peers – the time commitment, for one, was massive.  The friends I had were those who suffered the same constraints I did so we had an understanding by default (no, I really DID have to miss that birthday party because of a competition!)

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Being an athlete also required an enormous physical demand – maintaining that level of training and impact at 38? Not going to happen.  Eight Marital Arts classes a week, two days of HIIT cardio, and three to five lifting is MORE than enough. It was something to behold, for sure, and I am extremely proud of my body for getting me through it.

Add to those two hefty components (the commitment of body and time) the ability to focus the mind – not only for competition, but for training in general.  There were plenty of days of pushing through feeling under the weather, bleeding feet, strains, sprains…even a collapsed lung.  It was absolutely vital that we spent time visualizing, and keeping our mind sharp – on ice in particular, being “out of it” could be incredibly dangerous.

There was something else, though… An entirely other layer that seduced me from the get go – one that I dare say was evident when I performed.  When I watched top athletes I could always see the difference in “spiritual” commitment.  ALWAYS.  It wasn’t that the skater did, or didn’t, love the sport – most all of us were infected with intense ardor from an early age.  It was more so that some were devoted on another level...  Not just mind, not just body…but soul.  It wasn’t “spiritual” in an ecclesiastical way, but rather the presence of a transcendent passion. They weren’t skating to music, they were the music.  That, for me, was what made all the difference.  I didn’t want to just hit my elements…I wanted to string together each movement into a story that those with loss of their senses could still feel and understand.  

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In Martial Arts, such a level of dedication is – I’d argue – required.  Being a Martial Artist isn’t just about attendance, accomplishing the moves, passing tests, or breaking boards.  It isn’t just about being able to focus the mind on a task at hand, pushing through, and staying on point.  And it isn’t about getting a rank and calling it quits.

You can DO Martial Arts, absolutely.  To be a true “Martial Artist,” though, I (again, personally) feel as though the soul connection has to be there.  So yes, in my mind, I am eliminating the guys who get in a ring a kick ass but don’t do it for any reason beyond beating someone else (at their game, or literally.)  

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There are plenty of sports where you can sneak by without that soul connection – even in the most aesthetically-based, such as dancing and figure skating.  You can still complete the technical components, and maybe do okay with the artistic portion.  The average spectator very likely won’t notice the difference.  I guess in Martial Arts that can happen too…but then it isn’t really Martial Arts, it’s strictly striking, grappling, whatever…

Being an athlete is something to be proud of – it takes WORK.  It’s blood, sweat, and tears…peppered with (hopefully) some laughs.  Depending on the level (and the nature of the specific Art), Martial Arts requires that practitioners are athletes – the conditioning dictates it by default.  

But. . .to BE a Martial Artist really means devotion beyond the physical and mental – it’s a layer (or several) beyond just saying “this is my sport.”

Being a Martial Artist is something that will permeate your Life, and remain “true” for all your years – it is a lifestyle.  It is a way of being, thinking, acting, existing.  The lessons we learn, and strive to perfect, belong to a pursuit that extends well beyond our age and body – one of the reasons I say to people that Martial Arts is “timeless.”  

My sports and activities – figure skating, dance, weight lifting etc – those things take a toll eventually.  We get to a point where we can’t continue nearly at the same level.  But in Martial Arts, we somehow get better with age, regardless of having to potentially tone it down – there are so many layers beyond the “seen” that movement, ability, learning, philosophy etc…continues undeterred.  We become wiser and more balanced, not just stronger, more agile, more fluid with our movement.  I feel like those who have become impossibly proficient are not just skilled, they are IN it – they are tied to the activity with heart and soul, not just the desire to get better. They become the Art. 

That undercurrent is very much the one that finally got me to start – I wanted to do Martial Arts forEVER but was so inundated with demands from extracurricular sports, school, and then work that it was put on the burner.  For a long time.

In my early 30’s I revisited the “if I get injured and can’t dance, what ‘sport’ will I be able to continue with..?”  It was a very real issue when deciding between figure skating and college – I took the later path knowing that one derailment could cause a massive ripple effect later, leaving me in the dust of my peers.  After sitting with the thought a while, I manned up and marched into a Dojang – a decision that changed my Life forever.

I incidentally did get injured – through Martial Arts.  It incidentally DID take me out of ballroom competition for good.  But somehow I have been able to continue – no matter the modifications, I am still growing, learning, AND contributing (the most amazing part.)  I will for as long as I take it and I hope – though the capacity might change – that I will forever. 

The injuries I sustained would have (very likely) completely ended my career in figure skating, possibly ballet…definitely ballroom (because it did!)  But Martial Arts – with its countless facets – offers me the promise of maintaining my athleticism along with mental growth, emotional intelligence, and spiritual attainment.  It takes being an athlete to a whole other level and I LOVE that.  I know  that even when I have to do a little bit less physically, I can still reap the rewards of the sport – as a sport – without having to throw in the towel before I am ready (which will be NEVER!) 🙂 

My Martial Arts and Dance album…

 

 

Martial Arts Humor – For The Ladies

I don’t consider myself to be a tomboy really.  Growing up, maybe so – I’d rather be throwing mud, building forts, and doing sports.  But I still lean quite feminine, thankyouverymuch, and I embrace being a woman wholly.  Dancing and ice skating were my first loves, and the kind of movement my body both understands and craves…

But…I loooove to kick.  And I love to punch things. (Let’s be honest, chokes are kind of fun too!)  

It kind of is what it is, and it keeps everyone guessing… “Is she in a graceful and loving mood…or should I go get some pads and a helmut?”

I think diverse hobbies keep it real.  Or, if nothing else, they keep your reflexes up when I’m in the room. 😉

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This Is Me…Minus The Gi!

A friend posted this and basically it sums up, well…MOI…minus the Martial Arts gi, of course.  And when I say gi, I alternate – Takekwondo, Hapkido, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Japanese Ninjutsu –  A girl can never have too many gis!  

Or quality figure skating blades…

Or pointe shoes…

I blame my Geminian temperament for the contradictory multi-facetedness.  One never knows with a Gemini, but then…it does keep it interesting, no?

It’s kind of fun being on your toes…in SO many senses of the term.  Triple flip or pirouette, anyone?

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I think ce sont très chic!* (these are very chic! 😉 ) 

Alessandra Ferri for Boots

Boots has recruited the beautiful Alessandra Ferri to promote their newest serum, No7 Lift & Luminate Triple Action Serum.  As a long time dancer, I LOVE seeing this beautiful athlete back in the limelight (not only on stage!) well beyond what the traditional path (as a professional athlete, ballerina etc…) allows.  Refreshing and inspiring!

roma.repubblica.it

roma.repubblica.it

Ferri was the youngest dancer at the Royal Ballet back when she was just 19 years-old.  Now, at 52, with the rank of Prima Ballerina Absolute, she is still performing…and showing us that we actually can age gracefully.  ❤

I love that the Company chose her to represent a product designed for our aging skin – nothing frustrates me more than seeing a 20 year-old as the face of an age-defying cream!  I mean really?  

Boots UK

Boots UK

The Company claims, thanks to Matrixyl 3000 Plus (TM), that this is the most effective of their anti wrinkle technologies. From the sound of it, this newbie is getting awesome reviews already, living up to claims of reducing wrinkles, firming skin, and evening out skin tone. 

Figure Skating and Childhood Sports

The other evening the US Championships came on…and I just lit up.  My hunnie watched with me, which I really enjoyed also.  🙂  

I was blessed to have started on the ice around two or three years of age…and I continued with my training and competitions into my very late teens. Skating is, I believe, the sport I was meant to do – I took to it immediately, and so did my body, my heart, and my soul.  I remember being utterly captivated, watching the stars of the 80s and 90s  on television with baited breath – the sport had competitors who would change the sport forever at that time.  Oh, it was SO exciting!!!  (The Olympics in Calgary 1988 was a favorite!)

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Me in my teens doing what I loved… Rather like being an athletic swan! 🙂

One of the most substantial aspects of my Figure Skating was that it offered me a “language” with which to speak, when words failed me.  I remember dedicating a show program to a friend of mine who was killed in a car accident – we were only 16 and the news of his passing was not only a shock, but horribly devastating.  I took the ice with him in my heart, and skated that program the best I ever had – I didn’t know his mother had come to watch.  When I came off the ice, she was waiting for me, with an angel he used to keep on his dresser – she embraced me and gave it to me as a gift, and I will never forget it.  I “spoke” without a word, tracing the ice in complex patterns, to tell a story that pained my heart.  

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I participated in countless other activities growing up – Ballet was a big part of my training for a decade, but also including school sports and additional extracurriculars.  I wasn’t terribly GOOD at many of the other sports, but I certainly gave them a whirl! (Admittedly, some under duress – BUT, I am thankful to have tried as I now know what I prefer, and what works for my physiology!  I sincerely believe it is important for children to try all manner of activities – in this way, they can discover what they love (or don’t love!) most.  Personal passion is different for everyone and the exposure afforded me the opportunity to learn more about myself, and what made me “tick!”)

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Watching, missing, and loving!

There is something about the freedom of a clean sheet of ice, the cold winter air in your lungs (I trained outdoors six months of the year, during Autumn and Winter!)…  The sounds of the blades cutting the ice, the wind in your face, the roses that bloom in your cheeks – there’s nothing quite like it for me!  I miss it enormously and watching just made me want to float on air and dance about!

I transitioned into Ballroom Dancing and Martial Arts in my adulthood, though – it was Figure Skating or college at that juncture in my Life, and the prospect of staying behind my peers wasn’t something I was keen on.  It is also much more challenging with age so after later 20’s the field narrows substantially – I had that in mind, heaven forbid I put all my stock in it and get injured!

After tearing my knees in Martial Arts, I had to bow out of the dancing, sadly.  I often miss it, and I miss the ice!  But the blessing of having done so much of it in my earlier years, and growing up as an athlete, is that I have countless BEAUTIFUL memories.  I know what it is like to train that hard.  I know what it feels like to lose, to win, to perform, and to move an audience.  In fact, the latter was one of the things I loved most – telling a story and touching souls.  ❤

Our activities may change over our lives, and that’s okay.  It doesn’t mean we won’t miss the level at which we participated in the past…or that we won’t year for it still, but we do have other channels to explore…and so many memories to cherish.