Each month we offer a new article by Kitty Consolo, Ph.D. Kitty is a veteran runner and exercise physiologist. She has been running and racing since 1975, and has won over 400 road races ranging from the mile to the marathon and went to the first women's Olympic marathon trails in 1984. Kitty has a PR of 2:42.46 for the marathon and 35:02 for the 10km, She now enjoys shorter races and masters running.
Enjoy, and please let us know your thoughts about the Runner's Corner!
Disordered Eating and Runners
With warm weather definitely underway and summer just around the
corner, many runners are now more aware of their body shape and
image. Unfortunately, this concern over body image can become a
life-threatening obsession. Distance runners and athletes in other
sports such as gymnastics or wrestling where being low body fat can be
an advantage need to be aware of eating disorders, their warning signs
Types of Eating Disorders
Anorexia: This eating disorder is the most obvious
because it’s sufferers have a very thin appearance. Criteria include:
Refusal to maintain the minimum body weight for one’s height and age
Abnormal weight loss of 25% or more with no known medical illness
accounting for the loss
Intense fear of gaining weight even though underweight
Disturbed perception of one’s body weight or size
Absence of menstrual periods
Prolonged exercising despite fatigue and weakness*
*Keep in mind that one can continue to run for awhile and even
successfully even when anorectic so do NOT let running or performance
let you assume this person is healthy!
Bulimia: This eating disorder is hard to detect
because usually it’s sufferers are of normal body weight and
appearance. Criteria include:
Concern over their weight and make attempts to control weight by diet,
vomiting, laxatives, diuretics or exercise abuse—frequent running
Eating pattern may alternate between binges and fasts
Most are secretive and in denial about binges and vomiting
Food consumed during a binge has a high caloric content
Depressive moods and guilt occur following a binge
Like the bulimic sufferer, this person will binge with high caloric
food but not purge or take other excessive measures to lose the weight
they gain. These persons are often clinically obese and less likely
to be runners or athletes.
Regardless of which eating disorder one might have, they are can lead
to life-threatening situations of dehydration, electrolyte imbalances
and heart attacks! Take these disorders seriously and encourage
anyone you suspect with this problem to get help.
Approaching Someone You Suspect has an eating disorder:
Educate yourself more about the disease. Recognize that underlying
these disorders are often deep psychological problems such as
depression (50% are clinically depressed), 25% alcoholics and a large
number have other problems such as compulsive gambling or other
addictions. Thus this is not a problem simply about food or eating.
When you do decide to approach someone try the following:
Avoid talking about food and weight
Assure them that they are not alone and that you love them and want to
help them in anyway you can
Encourage them to seek help
Never force them to eat
D not comment on their weight or appearance
Do not blame the person and do not get angry with them
Be patient, recovery takes time
Do not make meals a battleground
Listen to them, do not be quick to give advice or opinions
Do not take on the role of therapist
For more information contact the following:
American Anorexia Nervosa Association Inc.
133 Cedar Lane, Teaneck NY 0766
National Nervosa Aid Society INC
P.O. Box 29461, Columbus, OH 43229
Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAS)
550 Frontage Rd Suite 2020, Northfield, IL 60093
contains info on anorexia and bulimia, personal stories and links to
support and recovery groups.
Take care, be healthy and see you on the roads.