There are many contributing factors that led me to the development of a frightful, obsessive disorder, labeled anorexia. One, in particular, that stands out in my mind as an athlete is the drive to be the best. As a competitor, I was willing to fight, battle, and push further and further.
When I sat down at the end of my freshman year, at my final individual meeting in the spring of 2003, I stared nervously at all three coaches. I sat quietly, anxiously waited to hear their feedback. There was nothing more intimidating than sitting in an office with three coaches to discuss your role in the program. The meeting’s purpose was to set goals, expectations, and prepare for the upcoming 2003 fall season. I would have never predicted that one sentence would have led me down the road of darkness. “Come into preseason as fit as you can possibly be. I expect you to be a 90-minute player,” said my head coach.
Though these words were positive and encouraging, again, the personality traits that are depicted in an eating disorder include high motivation, drive, rigidity, and competitiveness. Therefore, it is not surprising that I took this comment literally and to the absolute extreme. My two-a-days began immediately, I established what foods would be healthy to consume, and instantly implemented these changes in my daily routine. Very quickly, I started noticing changes in both my overall fitness and body. I started glancing in the mirror to admire a figure that had become leaner and more defined, without even eliminating much from my diet. I kept thinking to myself, “What if I cut out my ice cream eating at night, too?” And so there it began.. the voice in my head that talked to me every second of every minute of every day.
There is no doubt that the relationship between an athlete and food is very delicate. Our mornings, afternoons, and nights were dictated around meal times, whether it was pre-training, post-training, pre-game, or post-game. Was it the night before a game? Did I need to carb-load? How many hours before competition did I need to eat to perform at my highest level? What did I need to eat that would provide me with the most energy without feeling overstuffed or sluggish? These are questions that go through every athlete’s mind. However, every individual is different– the way one digests food, the psychological component of knowing one is well nourished, metabolism efficiency, and more. Unfortunately, there is a lack of discussion and education regarding nutritional intake, what factors one should consider, and how to find these respective answers.
In an article just published by espnW, Olympian and marathon runner, Shalane Flanagan, discusses the importance of her relationship with food and running. In Eat Like a Marathoner: Nutrition on the Run, she states, “It’s not about losing weight. It’s about being the best athlete you can be, about really enjoying your food and letting it enhance your life.” This statement is so essential for every single athlete to hear and understand. It is, without a doubt, a major aspect of every athlete’s life, and finding that balance between food and performance will ultimately enable maximal productivity.