The quest for athletic success may bring medals and glory, but it has a dark side as well.
Research commonly indicates high-level athletes are a high risk group when it comes to developing disordered eating patterns. This was the topic addressed by the National Sport Centre Calgary in the first instalment of their new lecture series, entitled "Psyched at Noon."
"[There's] a drive for perfectionism, we want our athletes to constantly strive for better," explained Kelly Anne Erdman, a dietician with the Centre. Erdman explained it is this struggle to make the grade that often leads to an obsession with appearance, weight or body composition.
Erdman and psychologist Dr. Hap Davis presented a lecture on the aspects of disordered eating among athletes on Wed., Sept. 26. According to Erdman and Davis, many factors, such as unrealistic comparisons and "spotlight" pressure, contribute to the high number of athletes displaying disordered eating patterns. Unfortunately, many coaches and support staff either fail to identify the problem or are reluctant to confront the athlete.
"The athlete's ability to mask or deal with pain is similar to the ability to mask eating disorders," said Erdman.
Eating disorders are one aspect of what is commonly referred to as the Female Athlete Triad. The triad is the relationship between eating disorders, amenorrhea (irregular menstruation) and osteoporosis.
The long-term effects of disordered eating patterns include loss of bone density leading to early osteoporosis and psychological problems such as low self-esteem.
The "Psyched at Noon" series is part of the NSCC's attempt to encourage athletes to take a holistic approach to their training and life.
"It's pretty casual--bring your lunch [and] get something new that may help your training, help you as an athlete," said Clare Wilson, a psychology consultant with the NSCC. "It's not very necessarily very sport specific but sometimes we like to ask 'OK, how can you be balanced in and out of your sport as well?'"
Although "Psyched at Noon" is specifically designed for athletes and coaches training at the University of Calgary, all students and faculty members are invited to attend. The sessions run from noon to 1 p.m. in the Oval Lounge of the Olympic Oval. For more information on the sessions, interested parties should contact the National Sports Centre Calgary at 220-4405.