National Eating Disorders Association
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Athletes

If you ask my friends in NYC to describe me, you’ll be painted a picture of a boss lady taking on the city as a full-time professor, writer, and consultant, in addition to being a fitness influencer. They’ll also tell you I’m a people person, excitable, and will always make time to help you move apartments and celebrate your birthday.   

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The focus in the eating disorders field is usually on diagnoses, symptoms, and related impairment. There has been little research, or even discussion, about negative traits that were present during the illness, which can be positive during and after eating disorder recovery. This is particularly important because, for most people, these traits will persist throughout their lives. In addition, Walter Kaye, MD, has noted that these traits may confer advantages in professions.

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BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! … It’s 5:30am and the alarm is going off. It’s Tuesday morning. My stomach does a flip when I realize what day it is. However, I’m not anxious about the dreaded morning weight circuit, like most of my teammates are, I’m anxious because it might be weigh in day. 

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"Dear KJ" is a monthly advice column by Dr. Kjerstin "KJ" Gruys, sociologist, author, and body image activist. She holds a Ph.D. in sociology with a focus on the politics of appearance and is the author of Mirror Mirror Off the Wall: How I Learned to Love My Body By Not Looking at It for a Year (Avery Press, 2012).

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To an athlete, an injury or illness, change in coach, or retirement from sport may feel like a traumatic event. These are three factors in which the athlete has the potential to go off the grid from their usual support systems: teammates, coaches, athletic trainers, or strength coaches.

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Mike Marjama currently has a successful career as an American baseball catcher for the Seattle Mariners, but he once struggled with an eating disorder that threatened his ability to play the sport he loves. As a teen, Marjama attended Granite Bay High School in California and later played baseball for California State University. While in high school, Marjama developed an eating disorder that eventually led to inpatient treatment. 

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Mollee Gray is an actress and dancer most recognized as Giggles in Disney films Teen Beach and Teen Beach 2 and as a finalist on season 6 of Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance. She currently tours nationwide teaching master classes and dance workshops, and serves as a celebrity ambassador for Breaking the Chains Foundation.

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Eating Disorders & Athletes

Athletes and Eating DisordersAthletics are a great way to build self-esteem, promote physical conditioning, and demonstrate the value of teamwork, but not all athletic stressors are positive. The pressure to win and an emphasis on body weight and shape can create a toxic combination. Athletic competition can also be a factor contributing to severe psychological and physical stress.

HGTV hummed in the background and a stack of gossip magazines were lazily stacked on the table next to me. My hands rested on my lap, tightly woven together. Thumbs anxiously pressed against each other, I hummed to myself. A combination of Beyoncé and Sylvan Esso circulated through my head — my pump up music driving to the office. I was nervous.

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The day I began treatment for my eating disorder was the August before the start of my sophomore year of high school. It was also the day my season of cross country track was scheduled to start. After my pediatrician was unable to sign off on the medical clearance forms, I was forced to go talk to my coach about how I wouldn’t be able to run with them this season. I was anxious when I walked into his office, expecting an angry response. 

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