Erin Konheim Mandras played college soccer at Michigan State University. Following her collegiate career she played semi-professional women’s soccer and later became a collegiate soccer coach. Erin is currently a motivational speaker, blogger and founder of www.kickthescale.com. Kickthescale.com focuses on eating disorders, body image, exercise, and nutrition, particularly in athletes. PPD Mag caught up with Erin to get her thoughts on athletes and eating disorders.
Dr. Mark: What is the purpose of kickthescale.com?
Mrs. Erin Konheim Mandras: Kickthescale.com is a website that provides my personal biography, my rock bottom, and my ongoing blog, all related to my story and experiences of developing, battling, and overcoming a significant eating disorder as a collegiate athlete at Michigan State University. Based on statistics, there is a widespread presence of eating disorders among all men and women, of all ages, but particularly prevalent in high level athletes. Therefore, my mission is to raise awareness and educate others on the issue, in hopes to prevent eating disorders from developing, or helping us to identify signs and symptoms early on, to prevent further damage.Kickthescale.com is a resource for people to use, as my writings and stories are relatable, real, and powerful.
Dr. Mark: Are female athletes under the same amount of pressure to perform as their male counterparts?
Mrs. Erin Konheim Mandras: Female athletes endure the same amount of pressures to perform as their male counterparts in all facets of life. Ultimately, males and females have the same goals, desires, and dreams to achieve great accomplishments, despite men’s sports earning more revenue. At the college level, a full ride scholarship is the exact same amount of money invested in an athlete, regardless of the sport or gender. Therefore, each athlete feels pressure to meet and/or exceed expectations, while an education is being funded. At the professional level, though there may be a significant discrepancy in salaries earned between men and women, each athlete signs a contract that promises results.
Dr. Mark: Is the subject of eating disorders a topic that needs to be discussed with high school and college athletes?
Mrs. Erin Konheim Mandras: Eating disorders are beginning to develop at a much earlier age, even before high school. Therefore, it is imperative to discuss, educate, and raise awareness on the topics surrounding eating disorders to all ages. Nutrition, healthy exercise behaviors, and a balanced lifestyle are all necessary components in helping to prevent eating disorders from developing. There is an intense desire to achieve the ideal body type that media and society is portraying as beautiful, in both men and women. And, as a result, many are finding alternative ways to attain that figure, whether through diet, exercise, or even surgery. It is so important to continue emphasizing positive body image. Also, we must continue discussing the details of eating disorders in hopes to bring attention to the signs and symptoms, and urge people to seek help immediately. Additionally, by sharing my story to all ages, my goal is to help eliminate the stigma attached to these issues.
Dr. Mark: What are some other topics you discuss when you’re presenting to athletes?
Mrs. Erin Konheim Mandras: When I present to athletes, I share my story of the development of my eating disorder, and the reasons why I was destined to develop one of my own. As athletes, we have tremendous responsibilities off the field, as well; academically, socially, and religiously. Therefore, it can become extremely overwhelming and stressful to perform at one’s best in all areas of life.
Athletes tend to be very high achieving individuals, who place an immense amount of pressure on themselves, and it is important to be aware of the health affects and ramifications this may have, such as, in my case, the development of an eating disorder. I emphasize the importance of positive body image, and the significance of strength, power, and health for optimal performance. Nutrition and exercise are two main contributing factors to optimal performance, and without proper and adequate attention to both, one’s performance may decline, like mine did.
Dr. Mark: What are the visible red flags of a student-athlete experiencing an eating disorder?
Mrs. Erin Konheim Mandras: In my case, I was identified by two major factors: a drop in body weight and my personality. These were clear signs of an issue. I had loss weight, but, also, appeared very lethargic, and distant in my close relationships. My dieting behaviors became noticeable, and my strict habits became worrisome. Additionally, I had lost my menstrual cycle.
Other signs and symptoms of all eating disorders can be found here.
Dr. Mark: How can we be proactive in preventing eating disorders with athletes?
Mrs. Erin Konheim Mandras: We must talk openly about the issues, and signs and symptoms so people are able to identify the disorders early enough to prevent significant damage. Additionally, the more common people feel these are, the more open to help people may be regarding eating disorders or disordered eating. It is so important to continue educating others on the details of eating disorders in hopes of saving lives.