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Athletes With Eating Disorders Essay

1599 words - 7 pages

Athletes with Eating DisordersIn a sense, eating disorders are diets and fitness or sports programs gone horribly wrong. A person wants to get fit, lose weight, excel in his or her sport, but then loses control and ends up with body and spirit ravaged by starvation, binge eating, purging, and frantic compulsive exercise. What may have begun as a solution to problems of low self-esteem has now become an even bigger problem in its own right. Eating disorders are significant problems in the worlds of ballet and other dance, figure skating, gymnastics, running, swimming, rowing, horse racing, ski jumping, and riding. Wrestlers, usually thought of as strong and massive, may binge eat before a ...view middle of the document...

All of these factors mean that women gain weight more easily than men, and women have a harder time losing weight, and keeping it off, than men do. In addition, women have been taught to value being thin. Men, on the other hand, usually want to be big, powerful, and strong; therefore, men are under less pressure to diet than women are -- and dieting is one of the primary risk factors for the development of an eating disorder.The female athlete has extensive excuses why she cannot eat: Because of all the competitions, her training schedule, practice sessions, and traveling, she does not have time to eat. Eating before practice or competition is impossible because she is nervous, because it will make her feel heavy and slow, because it will leave her bloated, because it will make her sick to her stomach. Eating afterwards leaves her nauseated. She cannot eat fat because she must lower her body fat percentage. With this last excuse, she removes many foods from her diet, including meat, which in moderate amounts is an excellent source of high quality protein.The anorexic female athlete may be a compulsive exerciser and use workouts as one way of purging calories. She may believe that a serious athlete can never work too hard or too much, that "no pain, no gain" must be taken literally, to the point that pain is sought as a marker for achievement.When confronted about excessive workouts, she may insist that if she were easier on herself, she would gain weight and then lose her ranking or her position on the team. She believes that even the smallest omission from her exercise regimen will cause her to "blimp up." In her mind, the gain of even a pound or two would cause her performance to suffer.At some point the over-exerciser begins to look like a drug addict. S/he reports that the activity is no longer an enjoyable part of life. It has taken over life and become the top priority under which everything else is subordinate. Exercising is no longer a free choice; it is now necessary and essential. It provides temporary feelings of well being and even high spirits. The person believes s/he must do the activity, and more and more of it. If s/he does not, s/he feels overwhelming guilt and anxiety which are sometimes described as withdrawal. Eventually the obligatory exerciser becomes obsessive in thought and compulsive in deed. S/he may keep detailed records, scrupulously observe a rigid diet, and constantly focus on improving his or her personal best.Researchers say that prolonged, strenuous exercise stimulates the body to produce substances similar to the opiate morphine. Debate continues whether or not compulsive exercisers become physiologically addicted to these substances. If they do, then obligatory exercise is a vicious circle where the biochemical products of activity lead to a self-induced high, which in turn demands more activity to generate more biochemical products.Sociologists say we live in an age of narcissism, and self-absorption. We are...

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