Sunday, November 4, 2007

More on running

In keeping with the running theme, I'm also very aware of running and eating disorders in general. I did not grow up running but rather a gymnast for many years. In my sophomore year of high school, I retired from competitive gymnastics due to some bad injuries. At that time, I did not have an eating disorder. That didn't happen until after I stopped gymnastics. Then I got into running, actually I think forcing myself, especially since I hated to run. For the rest of my high school and early college years, I consistently ran almost everyday along side of cheerleading and track activities. In the end, there was a lot of toll on my body, and it left me pretty exhausted.

I came across this article yesterday in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on eating disorder run rampant in girls cross country. I knew a number of cross country individuals in high school. Some of them were star runners, others just did it for fun. What sticks out to me were the girls who posted stellar times as freshman and sophomores, and then declined as their body changed in weight. I can only imagine how some of them felt to try to reach that best PR time again and feeling like their body betrayed them. It's similar to the gymnast who grows five inches in a year. It's only nature taking its course, but to female adolescents who are athletes, it can feel like torture.

What came across to me in this article was something that could be very controversial for high school athletics. Similar to the ban of the underweight models in Madrid, BMI would be screened for athletes involved in cross country. Currently, any BMI under 18.5 is considered underweight. Runners who are underweight and malnourished are at some serious health risks like osteoporosis, amenorrhea, anemia, and many others.

Apparently this proposal is divided with coaches. Some are for it, while others feel like it would place a lot of emphasis on weight. In my opinion, I think this could backfire. It is well intentioned of course, but at the same time, who's to say such and such isn't naturally thin or a girl with a normal BMI doesn't have an eating disorder? Obviously, outward symptoms of lanugo, emaciation, etc. could be evident, but what about electrolyte imbalances which you can't see unless someone goes into cardiac arrest, blacks out, etc. just for that reason. Even amenorrhea can't be considered a reliable symptom as many with eating disorders continue to have normal or irregular menstrual cycles but still some evidence of a menstrual cycle.

It'll be interesting to see where this goes and whether other high schools will implement something similar. According to the linked article above, a revised weight management program will be instituted this year for the school's wrestling program. I guess only time will tell. I'm reminded of this postcard published at postsecret a little over a year ago. It's my hope we have less of this, so individuals can get the help they need.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I remember that postcard when it was posted on PostSecret. Made me sad because I know it happens all the time.

I also agree that BMI restrictions may not be the best answer to detecting eating disorders in cross-country runners. Like you said, so many other factors come into play. What'll be interesting is the success (or lack thereof) of these rules, if implemented.