If you could take your most secretive, hurtful experience and use it to save a person’s life, would you? I would. So, I do.

I’ve stopped hiding that I had an eating disorder and exercise addiction.

Since I’ve been speaking my story, so many other people say to me, “I thought I was the only one!” or worse, “Oh, I didn’t realize I had that problem, too.”

I have spoken to classrooms, sports teams, and youth groups about my story, and it’s no longer about me. It’s about using my experiences to help illuminate the topic of eating disorders, which affect far more people (men and women) than we think.

Many of you interested in this topic know the importance of eating disorder awareness, and others may think it’s a rare occurrence that affects a few people unrelated to your area of work… but, probably not! From NEDA, some current statistics on eating disorders and athletes are as follows:

  • In a study of Division 1 NCAA athletes, over one-third of female athletes reported attitudes and symptoms placing them at risk for anorexia nervosa (1).
  • One study found that 35% of female and 10% of male college athletes were at risk for anorexia nervosa and 58% of female and 38% of male college athletes were at risk for bulimia nervosa (2).
  • Though most athletes with eating disorders are female, male athletes are also at risk—especially those competing in sports that tend to emphasize diet, appearance, size, and weight. In weight-class sports (wrestling, rowing, horseracing) and aesthetic sports (bodybuilding, gymnastics, swimming, diving) about 33% of male athletes are affected. In female athletes in weight class and aesthetic sports, disordered eating occurs at estimates of up to 62% (3).
  • Among female high school athletes in aesthetic sports, 41.5% reported disordered eating. They were eight times more likely to incur an injury than athletes in aesthetic sports who did not report disordered eating (4).
  • A study of female Division II college athletes found that 25% had disordered eating, 26% reported menstrual dysfunction, 10% had low bone mineral density, and 2.6% had all three symptoms (5).
  • Female high school athletes reporting disordered eating were twice as likely to incur a musculoskeletal injury as athletes who did not report disordered eating (6).

Who It’s For:

My story relates to all people struggling to find their place in the world, body image and food issues, learning to cope with adversity, having self-confidence… and the people in their lives trying to support them.

I was a college athlete and we are exposed to the pressures of performing on the court/field/classroom/weight room on a public scale. On top of that, we’re trying to fit this “ideal” that social media and society has created for us to (unrealistically) achieve.

My story relates to many different people, but I most closely associate with the student-athlete, as well as the coaches and parents who work with and love them.

Why It’s Important:

Eating disorders are a sneaky, secretive disease – yes, disease! In fact, eating disorders are mental health disorders with the number one fatality rate. We’re talking irreparable organ damage (heart, kidneys, etc.) and failure. Some deal with infertility down the road and lifelong health maintenance. Eating disorders can create performance roadblocks by way of brittle bones (osteoporosis/osteopenia), muscle atrophy, electrolyte imbalances, and more. You don’t need to “look sick” to have one, either.

As athletes, we hear that we need to be strong and fit to perform at the top level and that often comes with sacrifices like eating and workout regimens that can go too far… As long as you’re performing well, will someone catch on that you have a problem? In my experience, my “healthy” habits took a dive and went on far too long before it was noticed by others… When they did, I (like many others struggling with an eating disorder) denied that it was a problem at all.

Speaking Topics Include:

  • What is an eating disorder and types, versus healthy eating
  • Over-exercising/exercise addiction/compulsion, versus healthy exercising
  • Why it’s important and health risks
  • Warning signs and characteristics – when is it a problem?
  • Common Questions:
    • How do I approach someone I think needs help?
    • What do I say/how do I act with someone who has an eating disorder?
    • Is it a problem, or is it normal?
    • What kind of things trigger an eating disorder?
    • How do I stay on track with so much “diet/thin culture” around?
  • I allow for interaction at the end with a Q&A and questions from me to inspire thought around this topic

Contact me (or email me at SloaneMGreen@gmail.com) to see how we can work together and present a powerful message to your group!

Sources: (1)- Johnson, C. Powers, P.S., and Dick, R. Athletes and Eating Disorders: The National Collegiate Athletic Association Study, Int J Eat Disord 1999; 6:179; (2)- The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University. Food for Thought: Substance Abuse and Eating Disorders. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) Columbia University; New York: 2003; (3)- Sport Nutrition for Coaches by Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, CSSD, 2009, Human Kinetics. Byrne et al. 2001; Sundot – Borgen & Torstviet 2004; (4)- Jankowski, C. (2012). Associations Between Disordered Eating, Menstrual Dysfunction, and Musculoskeletal Injury Among High School Athletes. Yearbook of Sports Medicine, 2012, 394-395. doi:10.1016/j.yspm.2011.08.003; (5)- Beals KA, Hill AK. The prevalence of disordered eating, menstrual dysfunction, and low bone mineral density among US collegiate; (6)- Jankowski, C. (2012). Associations Between Disordered Eating, Menstrual Dysfunction, and Musculoskeletal Injury Among High School Athletes. Yearbook of Sports Medicine, 2012, 394-395. doi:10.1016/j.yspm.2011.08.003