Triathlon Magazine Canada - - FEATURES -

The amaz­ing thing about triathlon is the va­ri­ety of peo­ple who par­tic­i­pate show­cas­ing a range of body sizes and physiques. Not ev­ery­one looks like, or has to look like, a “model” of ex­cel­lence. What is uni­ver­sal is the ten­u­ous bal­ance be­tween fu­elling with food ver­sus be­com­ing be­holden to it.

Triath­letes may suf­fer from eat­ing dis­or­ders like anorexia ner­vosa, bu­limia ner­vosa, or binge-eat­ing dis­or­der. Th­ese are med­i­cal con­di­tions. On the bor­der of th­ese for­mal di­ag­noses sit a great range of idio­syn­cratic eat­ing habits, some of which lead to marginal per­for­mance gains in the short term, while oth­ers high­light the dan­ger­ous side of the drive to ex­cel that cul­mi­nate in burnout.

Jodie Swal­low is an ex­cel­lent triathlon am­bas­sador – tal­ented, gen­er­ous, and hon­est. She has talked about strug­gles with bu­limia and con­tin­ues to ad­vo­cate for ath­letes to find a bal­ance be­tween phys­i­cal and emo­tional health. She also stresses that ath­letes should be at­ten­tive to “ex­treme weight co­er­cion,” ei­ther in­ter­nally driven or ex­ter­nally en­cour­aged. In Chrissie Welling­ton’s au­to­bi­og­ra­phy A Life With­out Lim­its, she also ex­plores sim­i­lar pres­sures and how that in­ter­sected with her ca­reer. Three-time Iron­man Hawaii win­ner Peter Reid opined in the triathlon doc­u­men­tary What It Takes that he had “some­what of an eat­ing dis­or­der” and goes to bed hun­gry with headaches from food re­stric­tion as he pre­pared for the 2005 Iron­man World Cham­pi­onship. Th­ese three pro­fes­sional ath­letes share an open­ness that is not of­ten seen. There are many other triath­letes whose voices have not yet been heard.

Dis­or­ga­nized eat­ing be­hav­iours are seen in both women and men and, while the preva­lence rates dif­fer, the aware­ness of your own eat­ing habits and those of friends and fam­ily you care about can make pos­i­tive changes. Healthy weight main­te­nance and reg­u­lar eat­ing rou­tines, while fright­en­ing to those in the grip of an eat­ing dis­or­der, are at­tain­able. Those who are striv­ing for the ul­ti­mate triathlon per­for­mance won’t achieve their goals if they short change their en­ergy needs.

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