We live in a world that thrives on stereotypes and idealistic views, a world that persuades people to be something that they are not to fit in, a world that condones selling your soul to assure your physical appearance is up to par with the status quo. We have to ask ourselves, where does this need to fit in come from? This constant battle with oneself between being yourself and being who everyone else thinks you should be. This mindset is especially prevalent in the word of sports.
As an active member of the collegiate sport family I can attest to the very harsh and judgmental world collegiate sports fosters. There are certain body figures and shapes associated with different sports. When you don’t reflect the image the team intends to project you can feel like an outsider, like you don’t fit in. This along with the pressure of sports in general is incredibly difficult to overcome. It is because of this seemingly insurmountable amount of pressure that eating disorders are so common in the community of collegiate sports.
The level of competition college athletes compete at is comparable to that of professionals. Faithful to their extremely competitive spirit, college athletes will do anything in their power to stay on top of their game. Similar to the introduction of the steroid phenomenon, eating disorders are becoming more accepted in collegiate sports. Many athletes starve themselves, depriving themselves of key nutrients and choosing to live on protein shakes and supplements. Others binge eat and purge themselves of anything and everything moments after. Many athletes feel this is a sacrifice they have made to compete at their maximum level of ability in the sport they love. Sadly, coaches foster this idea, leading athletes to believe they must look a certain way, and weigh a certain amount to be the best. While instilling this mindset into the impressionable and eager minds of college athletes some coaches are unknowingly condoning sacrificing oneself and one’s health in the name of competition. I am a testament of this battle and how hard it is to overcome such circumstances.
I am a collegiate athlete myself and understand the pressures that come with competing at this level. When you observe many of your competitors looking a certain way and achieving a certain build you can’t help but to think that you should look that way. You start to believe there is some error to how you are living, eating, and competing. This is all apart of the competitive nature of the college athlete. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be the best, however when being the best comes at the expense of your health and your sanity there is a serious problem. As an athlete, you may view eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia as quick fixes but they are detrimental issues with long term effects. Such effects include hair loss, tooth decay, constant stomach pain, loss of menstrual periods, brain damage, heart attacks, and death. These are the things athletes don’t think about on their quest to look a certain way or weigh a certain amount. Once the effects of these disorders take place athletes can no longer compete at the level they once thrived at.
This is an issue for both men and women. If you are struggling with body image or weight, not only within the world of sports but in all walks of life please know that self harm is not the answer. Be stronger than that and be secure in who you are. If you obtain the body you want the healthy way you will reap the benefits on the track, on the court, or on the field.
Food for thought.