This is one of the few posts I plan on writing that is a little off the topic of rowing and coxing but I think it’s an important one that needs to be discussed, mainly because I don’t think anyone else will or has discussed it. February 24th through March 2nd is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week and I want to take the opportunity to utilize the (small) platform I have here to shed some light on the issues rowers and coxswains face with regards to disordered eating, pressures to maintain or lose weight, etc. Eating disorders are a taboo topic regardless of what “world” you’re in (rowing or not) and people tend to shy away from the topic because it’s an uncomfortable one to talk about. With regards to rowing, most coaches don’t have the breadth of knowledge to recognize and understand the signs and symptoms of an ED, let alone what to do about it if they’re confronted with one of their athletes dealing with one.
I can’t and won’t claim to know everything there is to know about eating disorders, but it is something I studied pretty intensely in college as part of my major and something I’ve witnessed first hand several times. Even though I’m 15 pounds below the women’s minimum for coxswains, I’ve still been pressured by coaches to keep my weight down so I’ll admit to doing some not-to-healthy things on occasion for the sake of keeping my boat fast. Believe me when I say it’s never worth it.
It’s important to remember that eating disorders aren’t just physical, they’re psychological as well. The stigma surrounding mental health disorders is tends to perpetuate the disorders even more. Please don’t let other people’s opinions, actions, offhand comments, etc. discourage you from asking for and/or getting help. I think it’s important in situations like these for people to recognize that they aren’t the only ones dealing with these issues, so if you are a rower or coxswain who has dealt with an eating disorder (either in the past or currently) and wouldn’t mind sharing your experience, please send me an email. The point of this is to let other rowers and coxswains know that they aren’t the only ones going through this and to encourage them to seek help, whether it be from their peers or a professional.
Check back for a new post each afternoon this week. You can find all the posts (and other related questions and posts) under the “eating disorders” tag.