News Story on Canadian Athletes and Disordered Eating [includes quotes from Kirsten Moore-Towers]

overedge

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This is an excellent article, even if it does identify Skate Canada as "Figure Skating Canada". Some of the most interesting quotes from the section on skating, which includes a long interview with Kirsten Moore-Towers.

At 15, Kirsten Moore-Towers was told that if she was serious about figure skating, she needed to be small. At 4-foot-11, she was already petite, so she knew what that advice meant. But whenever the pairs skater dropped a few pounds, she was told to keep going. “You don’t look Russian yet,” her coach told her, comparing Moore-Towers with the competition. “Your work isn’t done.”

But how much weight was she supposed to lose exactly? “It was never really made clear,” she said. “That’s a common theme in figure skating in particular, just based off my experience. It’s often that the athlete needs to lose weight, but there’s not always a reason why.”

The Globe sent questions to the International Skating Union, the sport’s governing body, asking what rules govern judges talking to athletes about their weight. The ISU did not respond.

Some steps have been taken, but the sport has a long way to go. Figure Skating Canada this year created body-image guidelines for coaches. The Globe reviewed those guidelines, which state that athletes should not be weighed by coaches, only medical personnel, though Moore-Towers suspects it still happens at clubs across the country.

The story also says that the Canadian Olympic Committee's funding program for senior national team athletes allocates $1,000 per year for mental health support, including for disordered eating. FWIW a friend of mine recently looked into residental programs for young people with severe anorexia, and those start at $20,000 per week.
 
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Sylvia

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Kirsten's Instagram post yesterday about the article includes supportive comments from the skating community: https://www.instagram.com/p/CXoxaH9O-Xw/

Moore-Towers also participated in TSN's 12-minute original feature titled DISORDER that first aired in October 2020 (posts #39-44) in this GSD thread, starting here (I also posted the Globe and Mail article link -- that @shutterbug originally shared on Friday in the Canadian Pairs thread -- in this one): https://www.fsuniverse.net/forum/th...-discussion-thread.107347/page-2#post-5888663

Another related thread earlier this year re. Canadian figure skaters:
 
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griffen

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I am not sure how you can prevent eating disorders in a sport that you will only excel at if you are lean. There are very few people who are naturally lean. Most people have to limit their food intake to be lean. Being a elite athlete and being lean go together. There is no way around this fact. So I don't see how eating disorders can be prevented. Figure skater = eating disorder, does it not.
 

tony

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I am not sure how you can prevent eating disorders in a sport that you will only excel at if you are lean. There are very few people who are naturally lean. Most people have to limit their food intake to be lean. Being a elite athlete and being lean go together. There is no way around this fact. So I don't see how eating disorders can be prevented. Figure skater = eating disorder, does it not.
Well, no. :rolleyes:

Nutrition is a science, and I think there needs to be a better understanding from parents, coaches, and especially the athletes themselves about how to make healthy choices while still getting required daily macro and micronutrients. The lack of knowledge across the board about still needing good fats, still needing carbs, etc is overshadowed by 'Oh this is X amount of calories, I can't have it!' or 'This candy is X sugars, now I can't eat dinner!' That's not how it works, and I've seen very little evidence that people know anything further than reading calorie (or fat or sugar) totals. Skaters are also burning a ton of calories by just being on the ice for many hours a day. They need to replenish those calories.

It's a sensitive area but eating a balanced diet should be just as important as teaching of the dangers of smoking or drinking excess alcohol, or whatever else many people frown upon. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US across all populations and it probably is the same in many other places in the world. Why the US is trying so hard to get younger populations off smoking (raising the minimum age, raising prices, etc) but there's not a huge focus on balanced diet (as opposed to don't eat this ever!) is beyond me.

But the concept of telling a young athlete that has had zero learning in nutrition that they need to stay lean- that's setting them up for a world of problems and something that should never happen. And being lean with zero strength also isn't going to do anything.
 
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bladesofgorey

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I am not sure how you can prevent eating disorders in a sport that you will only excel at if you are lean. There are very few people who are naturally lean. Most people have to limit their food intake to be lean. Being a elite athlete and being lean go together. There is no way around this fact. So I don't see how eating disorders can be prevented. Figure skater = eating disorder, does it not.
Most sports you can only excel at if you are lean. Being lean is not the same thing as being thin, and definitely not the same thing as being skinny. Believing fellow athletes (or if you are a coach, your athletes) can only be successful if they are well below the body weight that's normal for their bodies is a sickness. Trust me, I know/knew plenty of elite athletes (world and national record holders) in a sport where leanness is especially objectively important- distance running. Most of those athletes did not struggle with binging/purging/starving or disordered eating. Why? Because they had excellent coaches who stressed strength and training over restriction and who understood (and had seen) the dangers of their athletes falling into disordered thinking/eating. There are a lot of sad stories on that side of the cliff and good coaches who want the best for their athletes and the best performances out of them educated themselves about this and know the pitfalls. I'm not saying all elite running coaches are good at this (there are/were abusers like Salazar) but most of the top ones I knew knew that they didn't get their best performances out of broken, starving athletes.
 

overedge

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I am not sure how you can prevent eating disorders in a sport that you will only excel at if you are lean. There are very few people who are naturally lean. Most people have to limit their food intake to be lean. Being a elite athlete and being lean go together. There is no way around this fact. So I don't see how eating disorders can be prevented. Figure skater = eating disorder, does it not.

Did you actually read the entire article?

And if you did, shame on you for making such insensitive comments. The article describes athletes literally being unable to perform because their eating is so disordered and they are not getting enough nutrition.
 

Japanfan

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I am not sure how you can prevent eating disorders in a sport that you will only excel at if you are lean. There are very few people who are naturally lean. Most people have to limit their food intake to be lean. Being a elite athlete and being lean go together. There is no way around this fact. So I don't see how eating disorders can be prevented. Figure skater = eating disorder, does it not.

Seriously? I really hope you are not involved with athletes, especially girls or young women, in any capacity.

Your post reads as if eating disorders are inevitable, and that this is okay.

Of course eating disorders can be prevented, or if they develop, can be treated.

It's true that there is a relatively high prevalence of eating disorders in FS, but the issue is at least being addressed (though there is certainly a long way to go) - largely thanks to skaters like Gracie Gold and Gabbie Daleman coming out to share their struggles with EDs.

You do understand that skaters need fuel? It is possible to be lean and eat nutritiously, at the same time.

I recommend you read this post by Meagan Duhamel, on her wellness blog:

 
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Trillian

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It's true that there is a relatively high prevalence of eating disorders in FS, but the issue is at least being addressed (though there is certainly a long way to go) - largely thanks to skaters like Gracie Gold and Gabbie Daleman coming out to share their struggles with EDs.

Is it being addressed in a meaningful way, though? I do appreciate all the skaters who have spoken publicly, but skaters have been going public about their eating disorders for a few decades now. There’s been discussion within the sport that “eating disorders = bad” for a long time. The only thing that I think has changed in the culture at large is a greater emphasis on “body acceptance,” which is going to have limited usefulness in combating the specific issues that lead to EDs in sports.

I’ve been watching skating for almost 30 years, and I’m trying to think of what has meaningfully changed with regards to the dialogue around nutrition and health in that time.
 

Aceon6

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I’ve been watching skating for almost 30 years, and I’m trying to think of what has meaningfully changed with regards to the dialogue around nutrition and health in that time.
Med’s move to Orser changed it for a bit after she started including comments about changes to her diet in her media. I still remember “omg, I can eat a whole pint of blueberries” comment. I know of several local coaches who reached out to Cricket for info on their nutrition program.
 

MacMadame

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I’ve been watching skating for almost 30 years, and I’m trying to think of what has meaningfully changed with regards to the dialogue around nutrition and health in that time.
It used to be common for coaches to weigh athletes and now it's uncommon. It's not enough but it's a start especially as many athletes report that these daily weightings were what led to their ED.
 

PRlady

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I think pair girls are always going to be most at risk. A pound here or there might affect a single skater's jumping until s/he adjusts to a slightly higher weight. But I'd bet pair guys know to the pound what their partners weigh and when twists or lifts change, there's going to be consequences.
 

Trillian

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It used to be common for coaches to weigh athletes and now it's uncommon. It's not enough but it's a start especially as many athletes report that these daily weightings were what led to their ED.

Good point! I do think there are probably still lots of coaches who make comments without actually weighing their skaters, and I don’t know enough about the skating culture outside North America to know if this is true worldwide. But this is a great example of a change that needed to happen and probably has helped many skaters.

I remember US Figure Skating removing athlete weights from their media bios around 20 years ago, too.
 

Enchanted

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The problem also includes the skating fans, reporters, commentators etc.

For example, very recently, Nick McCarvel asked P/C and H/D whom of them is likely to eat too much. The all four skaters seemed rather uneasy with the question. The question was really weird.

On the other hand, fans should also be careful when commenting on skaters’ physique etc. Most of the time the comments are rather unnecessary.
 

Japanfan

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Is it being addressed in a meaningful way, though? I do appreciate all the skaters who have spoken publicly, but skaters have been going public about their eating disorders for a few decades now. There’s been discussion within the sport that “eating disorders = bad” for a long time. The only thing that I think has changed in the culture at large is a greater emphasis on “body acceptance,” which is going to have limited usefulness in combating the specific issues that lead to EDs in sports.

I’ve been watching skating for almost 30 years, and I’m trying to think of what has meaningfully changed with regards to the dialogue around nutrition and health in that time.

I don't know if the change has been 'meaningful', I would think it depends on your perspective. I don't think I'd use the word myself, but rather say there has been somewhat of shift.

It is also important to keep in mind that teen girls/young women are often overly concerned about weight, in general. I am not in touch with this population much, but don't think there is that much change since I was young (even though that was some time ago)? If anything, I would expect the concern to be more, given all the photo shopping that is done in media images these days to make women look so unrealistically thin.
 

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