“ Orthorexia nervosa (also known as orthorexia ) is a proposed eating disorder or mental disorder characterized by an extreme or excessi...


Orthorexia nervosa (also known as orthorexia) is a proposed eating disorder or mental disorder characterized by an extreme or excessive preoccupation with avoiding foods perceived to be unhealthy.” - Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orthorexia_nervosa)

Read the eating disorder section of a sports nutrition book and it will mention weight-restricted sports like lightweight rowing. And although many lightweights are voracious eaters, I’ve also seen some disordered eating patterns.

Most of the books talk about anorexia and bulimia. However, the detrimental physical effects seemed contrary to the goals of elite athletics. Orthorexia, by contrast, is about creating the perfect body through so-called “clean” eating—and falls directly in line with the goals of many elite athletes.

In fact, orthorexia is highly prevalent among elite athletes.

And at times, I have felt myself heading in that direction. Certainly avoiding unhealthy foods was a primary motivator for becoming vegan (although not for staying vegan). My wake up call was a bowl of oatmeal.

It was in the months leading up to a weigh-in, when I’m slowly losing weight. As usual, I was on target to make weight and yet still nervous. More importantly, I was hungry; all I could think about was eating. I would wander in and out of the kitchen, trying to decide what I was allowed to eat.

Eventually, I made myself a small bowl of plain oatmeal. And eating it, I felt guilty. I paused for a moment to reflect: I felt guilty for eating a bowl of plain, whole grains. For whatever reason, I felt it didn’t have enough vegetable, or fruit, or maybe it wasn’t organic enough, or gluten free enough.

That was enough for me. I was hungry; I was eating real food. 
Goddamnit, I wasn’t going to feel guilty about it.

Since then, I’ve done a much better job of managing my eating and my weight without obsessing. But, I can’t be the only one that was, or is, there.

As a teammate and a member of the lightweight community, I feel a responsibility to my teammates. I have failed teammates in the past—teammates who exercised compulsively, or who binged and purged. This is my opportunity to change the push for “clean” eating to a push for just eating.

Have you ever felt guilty about eating something? Is there an “ideal” diet? Have you ever had a teammate with an eating disorder?

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