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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Martial Arts Tips – The 5 Rules Of Fighting

 This image crossed my path the other day and though there’s never an end to “tips,” especially in this arena, these are five solid goodies to start. They might apply to a professional fighter, but they also make sense in a self-defense scenario.

NEVER MOVE BACK IN A STRAIGHT LINE

When you get “offline” (for example, at a 45% angle), you are forcing your opponent to slow down. As he redirects to refocus his energy on you, his strikes become weaker, and a window of opportunity opens during which you can retreat to a safe direction, strike back if still under threat, etc.

Moving straight back can also have you backed into something (or on the ground!) pretty quick.  A stagger is a stronger base from which to work, keeping you on your feet….where you need to stay.

 

NEVER SET

Keep moving! A stationary target is a lot easier to catch and strike. Movement also makes it easier to catch your opponent by surprise – a strike from a stand-still telegraphs your intentions much faster than if you are dodging about.

 

REDIRECT

Along with number one… When the opponent has to shift his focus, he also has to shift his weight, balance, and strength, giving you the upper hand.

 

FIGHT YOUR OPPONENT AS HE FIGHTS YOU

You never know what a person’s background is, or necessarily their style of fighting. In the heat of the moment, it’s hard to observe, but try to pick up on what he is…and isn’t…doing…as well as what he has in his arsenal. A knife fight when you aren’t armed means you’ve got a bold opponent fighting you (think: lunging slashes and stabs, unafraid of being cut in return.) If you happen to have a knife also, his movements are going to become a lot shorter, hesitant, and self-protective.

Stand your ground as much as you are able, maintaining that you are not a victim or someone to be pushed around.  The more calm a person can be (and it is a challenge, assuredly) the more nerve you will evoke in the other person. Chip away at the opponent’s self-confidence and he’s going to be a lot easier to get away from, or submit (obviously depending on the circumstance.)

 

PLACE YOUR OPPONENT WHERE YOU WANT HIM

If you are fighter by sport or profession, STUDY…and study hard. Observe what you can before hand.  If you have no ability to do so, test him to see which strikes he’s resorting to, or whether he wants to stay standing vs get you to the ground, whether he baits you, prefers kicks to punches, and which kinds…  When you understand what you are working with, you know where the weaknesses are.  

If in a self-defense scenario, you aren’t going to have time on your side. Do your best to note the person’s movement, as it is guaranteed to be either: their natural movement (and going to occur again), or their preferred movement (and going to occur again.) Being aware of the other person’s overall body movement can also keep us focused, giving us less time to panic.

 

Obviously, there are a slew of techniques and tips and methodologies out there…but these are good tidbits to keep in mind.

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3 Ways to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain, by Rachel Crocker

I appreciated Rachel Crocker’s article – which came to me via Oxygen Magazine – because I’ve totally been snookered by all three of these! 

Holidays are tough because sometimes we feel pressured to please everyone – never easy to let a family member down! Other times we just feel flat-out out of control.  Been there for sure, but it helps to know that it doesn’t *have* to be that way.  I struggled for a long time with setting those boundaries and letting people make me feel badly – surrounding yourself with supportive people, AND strategies, helps!

There’s enough stress this time of year – between the parties, mini vacations, and family gatherings – do what feels right for you, and feel good about it.  You’re allowed!  

Elke S. Nelson, PhD and CFL-1 also has some “Weight Loss Hacks” for this time of year – the more the merrier as far as help staying on track for me.  Temptations all over the place!

CAN And The Four Letter Derivative

When I was growing up the rooster of “four letter words” included a few more than ones that come to mind as an adult.  Things like “hate” and “can’t” were as much a taboo as the commonly know “bad words,” not so much from the harsher or inappropriate sound of them, but the damage they could inherently cause.  (And that damage runs deep in the psychological veins, make no mistake!)

My skating coach would correct me immediately if ever I made the grave mistake of uttering the dreaded “can’t” – because it was so drilled into me, I think about it every single time I hear someone say it – even at 37!  And I NEVER, ever use it with respect to myself.

I tend to get very frustrated when I am unable to do something – sadly even with activities I am new to (and therefore have no reason to be, nor expectation of being, an expert!) I had a ton of pressure on me growing up, particularly in sports.  As a young athlete, I was under the spotlight (literally when it came to dance and figure skating), and because I learned quickly, my bar was raised that much higher.

I’m nigh “unteachable” sometimes, because my frustration gets the better of me – I don’t know if it is fear of failure, embarrassment, disappointment, or a combination of the three, but it CAN be debilitating.

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At times like that I have to consciously take a deep breath and LET GO.  I have to remind myself that I CAN do anything I put my mind to – if I am new to it, it will take some time and that’s okay.  It has nothing whatever to do with can or can’t, but everything to do with letting go and trying – giving myself a chance!

It’s important that we stay mindful of the conversation we have with ourselves.  As they say, our self talk is a reflection of the conversation we are holding with the Universe.  And…the ever-famous, “whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right.”

Give yourself a CHANCE.

Take a deep breath, let go of the fears and embarrassment…or at least TRY.  Trying is the first step!

And mind the words you use, and the way you say it… You CAN do anything you put your mind to.  

You CAN.  

That other variation of the word…the one with “‘t” in it?  That doesn’t exist in my vocabulary anymore and I’m definitely the better for it.  Losing that word opens up a whole slew of avenues for success, learning and love.

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Salmon “Rendezvous”

 

 

I feel really blessed to have a supportive man – he always cares that I will be happy when we go out, and I know not everyone has that luxury.

“Just have what we are having!” people will say…

Well, NO…I don’t WANT that.  I eat clean, and I’d like to maintain that when I go out.  Believe it or not, NOT having that respect and support is a huge pressure for people living a fit lifestyle – in some cases it keeps us from going out.

When my hunnie and I go out for a meal, he’ll always make sure there is something I will like.  It means a lot to have that kind of support, especially as it was always something I was worried about when I was single (you know, you never want to seem odd, or high maintenance, or too difficult, right?!)

So the other day he said “let’s go out!” and for our fun little “rendezvous” (the “date” word always felt so superficial and weird to me…soooo, we use “rendezvous!” 😉 ), we got some sushi. ❤

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Sashimi salmon is a favorite of mine. I didn’t always have the taste for it, but after trying it with warm soy sauce, I was hooked.  

  • I actually will heat the soy sauce and leave the pieces in until they “cook” a tiny bit when I prepare it at home – it’s DELICIOUS!  
  • Add a few black sesame seeds and it’s totally “WOW.” 

Cook sashimi?  Kind of, YES.  I feel more satisfied when it’s cooked a bit, interestingly!  But either way, it’s light, choc full of good fats, and I feel great about my choices!  

(Tons of sodium, of course, and wheat, in traditional soy sauce – make sure to go easy if those two are troublesome for you.  Because I am so active, I have lower blood pressure, so the salt is a good thing in my case.)