Disordered eating in athletes

March 7, 2012 6:28:41 AM PST
Disordered eating is a condition that's thought to affect up to 75 percent of all young women at some point in their lives. It's also an extremely common problem among athletes, both men and women, but they don't always talk about it. They may keep it a secret or not even realize it is a problem.

"I've done six marathons, a couple half marathons," Caleb Daniloff said.

Daniloff began running eight years ago, changing his diet and lifestyle. But while training for a marathon in 2009, his healthy changes had gone too far.

"I stopped having appetizers. I stopped having desserts. I cut out meat. I cut out dairy. Suddenly I just implemented a whole bunch of rules," Daniloff said.

He thought the rules were part of the discipline that goes along with training for a marathon.

"Runners are very focused on numbers related to running like [personal records] and splits," Daniloff said.

But he says the personal records and split times soon led to an obsession with calories and weight loss, every pound mattered.

"It becomes this big stew of numbers you're trying to control," Daniloff saidp.

Like many athletes, Daniloff was suffering from disordered eating. It's a subtle but concerning pattern of abnormal eating habits, and distorted beliefs about food and weight.

Disordered eating does not always lead to an eating disorder but most eating disorders begin as disordered eating so it's important to recognize the warning signs.

Sports nutrition specialist for New York Roadrunners, Lauren Antonucci says a healthy diet should never mean all or nothing.

"When the guilt around eating a food is overcoming you or if there is a fear around eating a food, the food has too much power over you. We're all humans, we all deserve to have an ice cream cone or a cookie every once in a while," Antonnuci said.

Daniloff says he stopped counting every calorie and he no longer runs with a watch.

"I feel like I'm now running for the joy of running and not getting all obsessed with the numbers," Daniloff said.

LINK: Runners World Magazine