Tumbling Over Eating Disorders: A Constant Threat for Athletes

A good competition involves pivotal moments, which determine who wins and loses. Athletes face a lot of pressure that can lead to eating disorders, such as bulimia or anorexia. In some sports, athletes are required to be a certain weight in order to compete. Gymnast, dancers, and figure skaters have the highest occurrence of eating disorders because their sport focuses on appearance.

Most athletes believe that to win the competition and be successful their bodies must be thin. When that belief goes askew and disordered eating results, this can lead to poor performance because the athlete doesn’t receive proper nutrients the body requires. Those closest to athletes suffering from an eating disorder either do not recognize the signs of anorexia and bulimia or do not believe the athlete would become self-abusive.

In addition to the physical effects of disordered eating, a psychological component also exists. As a former competitive gymnast, the pressure and stress of meeting a certain size became a challenge. I started watching everything I ate and drank while working out five to eight hours a day and competing once or twice per week. The scrutiny from competitors, coaches and judges kept me on edge and I often wondered whether my size became more important than how well I performed.

All athletes strive for perfection and will do whatever it takes, even if their life is at risk. To illustrate, one of my competitors began losing weight without proper nutritional advice after being told she needed to drop a few pounds and eventually became bulimic. Anorexia and bulimia also plagued U.S. gymnast “Christy Henrich.” Word has it that along the way, a judge told Henrich she was too fat to excel or succeed in gymnastics. To combat that negative mental view of her body, she began extreme dieting and eventually developed an eating disorder. She died from multiple organ failure at the age of 22, weighing only 47 pounds.

Pinpointing the external signs of anorexia and bulimia are the first step to saving the life of a loved one. Some of those signs include:


  • Excessive weight loss
  • Always thinking about food, calories, and body weight
  • Wearing layered clothing
  • Mood swings
  • Avoiding food activities


  • Excessive weight loss or gain
  • Being overly concerned with one’s weight
  • Visiting the bathroom after meals
  • Depression
  • Excessive dieting followed by binge eating
  • Always criticizing one’s body

Eating disorders can be deadly, if not treated quickly.


  1. So few people realize how just one negative weight comment can affect a young girl. If people only knew of the impact, they might stop and zip it shut.

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