Scanned image of the page. Keyboard directions: use + to zoom in, - to zoom out, arrow keys to pan inside the viewer.

Page Options

Download this Issue


Something wrong?

Something wrong with this page? Report problem.

Rights / Permissions

This collection, digitized in collaboration with the Michigan Daily and the Board for Student Publications, contains materials that are protected by copyright law. Access to these materials is provided for non-profit educational and research purposes. If you use an item from this collection, it is your responsibility to consider the work's copyright status and obtain any required permission.

October 25, 2017 - Image 13

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017 // The Statement

worsens. And in those

who are at particular risk,
they’ll think, ‘Well, I need
to lose more weight,” and it
becomes a self-perpetuating
spiral downwards of worsen-
ing physical condition.”

The second group of ath-

letes are those engaging in
aesthetic sports where per-
formance is judged subjec-
tively. Dancers, gymnasts
and figure skaters are com-
mon for this category of sus-

“There’s no free-throw

percentage or soccer goal
being scored. You are per-
forming for a judge, and
because it’s a performance
where all eyes are on you, it
increases the self-conscious-
ness of appearance and rais-
es your risk of developing an
eating disorder,” Bravender

The third group includes

sports that divide its compet-
itors into weight classes like
wrestling, judo and rowing.
According to Bravender, this
is a massive issue, in which
athletes feel pressured to
reduce to their lowest weight
for competitive advantage. It
wasn’t until multiple tragic
deaths of collegiate wres-
tlers that the National Col-
legiate Athletic Association
made regulations in 2012
and has since, not observed
any deaths from unhealthy
weight cutting practices.


around body image and
weight remain high among
college athletes. The shield-
ed nature of the topic makes
it particularly hard to speak
about in competitive set-

“I think it came from the

Type A nature that is Michi-
gan, that is Michigan sports,
that is a Michigan student-
athlete. I definitely did not
see it across my whole team,
and I can only speak from my
own experience that it start-
ed much earlier for me than
rowing,” Carson said.


started with soccer and
then cross-country, until she
began rowing at the Univer-

“You can usually pick

out a rower because they

are significantly taller than
other athletes and have
strong, beautiful shoulders.
I wouldn’t say that it was my
sport involvement that lead
to my desire to fit my desired
body image that was smaller
than what I was,” she said. “I
think for me, it started much
earlier. I had already had that
mentality and the disordered
frame of thinking.”

Nulf’s story shared simi-

lar elements of disorder and
conformity. She traced the
beginnings of her abnormal
relationship with food to her
earlier figure-skating career.

“I definitely had skating

coaches who made com-
ments and put pressure on
kids in our skating clubs to
look a certain way and be a
certain way,” she said.

At the beginning of high

school, she began cross-
country and then dance.
With the stress of col-
lege auditions for dance



“That stress made me

snap and I really started
binge-eating, but to compen-
sate for that, I began bing-
ing and purging. It was a
one-time thing, then it was
a two-time thing, and then
a once-a-week thing, until it
progressed and progressed

thing,” Nulf said.

When thinking about the

heightened risk for eating
disorders and disordered
eating among athletes, I
question my own habits.
Maybe it’s something in the

permits this sort of body-
mind detachment to occur.
I remember thinking my
decisions around food were
promoting my artistic career
and therefore saw no nega-
tive consequence in strain-
ing my body — in fact, I was
proud of my achievements
in weight loss. However, the

mance and body image is a
constant, underlying current
of tension.

“It’s a huge regret that I

have,” Carson said. “In col-
lege, what my body looked
like became more important
than what my performance
looked like. … I wanted to be
the best athlete I could, but
at that time, the disordered
thoughts were stronger than

my rational thoughts.”

Carson spoke about being

clouded by her disordered
thoughts that she had con-
vinced herself she was aiding
her performance.

“I kept losing weight

through my years, and my
physical performance went
down with my weight,” she
said. “It’s hard for to look
back at that time because
I was putting my body
through so much physical
and emotional stress, all for
what I now know was want-
ing to look a certain way.”

As a dancer of 19 years,


body sacrifice is something
that resonates deeply. Sonn-
eville explained this tug of
war as a common pressure
among young athletes.

“There is a real trade-off,

in order to maintain a par-
ticular body type for some
people is going to require
disordered eating,” she said.
“People who have a skill and
ability in a sport will face a
moment in their career that
says, in order to maintain
this body type, this is a real
sacrifice I have to make — I
cannot have both things.”


the difficulty in this decision,

are surrounded by people
who praise them for their
sport, have parents who have
invested time and energy, or
even a coach that reinforces
unhealthy messages of eat-

She urges coaches to cul-

tivate a team culture that is
a safe space. “A place where

where people are allowed
to suffer and struggle,” she
said. “I think you have to
model vulnerability if you
are in a position of authority.
Be particularly mindful of
who your athletes are, who
your students are and what
they’re at risk of.”

As a former U-M athlete,

Carson reiterates the neces-
sity for fostering the right
environment for students.

“Seeing help-seeking as

a strength and not a weak-
ness — I think that’s some-
thing sports struggle with is
viewing mental health as a
weakness and it’s not,” Car-
son said. “At the end of the
day, your mental health is
more important than your
physical performance. But

when you’re in the culture
of athletics, it doesn’t feel
that way. Even when I was in
that place, it didn’t feel that
way: the team, the team, the

However, there is exten-

sive work being done to
better treat and prevent

among athletes. The NCAA
has implemented various

and prevention programs
like The Female Athlete
Body Project — an interac-
tive series of verbal, written
and behavioral exercises to
promote a healthier lifestyle
and mindset. Carson stresses
the importance of mental
health and pushes for annual
screenings earlier on in ath-
letes’ careers.

“I really think the ath-

letic department could better
serve its athletes by allocat-
ing some more funding to
this area,” Carson said. “I
think that mental health,
which includes eating dis-
orders, should be a bigger
priority. Because without
mental health, you can’t be a
great student, a great athlete,
a great friend, a great team-

The urgency for better

prevention and intervention
is apparent. Eating disorders
are a physical and mental
problem in need of attention
and appropriate care. It isn’t
a diet pill or exercise plan you
can unsubscribe to. It’s much
more complex.


what my body would be like
without the scale under the
piano and the traumatizing
embarrassment of a target
weight too far below the
actual. I wonder if I wouldn’t
have stopped growing and
could’ve been taller like my
brother. Sometimes I won-
der if sacrificing my health
for my craft was worth it —
and I still don’t have a clear

So where do we being?

How do we tackle this ill-
ness, this stigma, this fine
balance between sacrifice
and well-being?

“I’m hoping we are going

towards a more holistic

Sonneville said. “Right now,
there’s a lot of money and
research dedicated to obesity
prevention and there’s this
idea that this has to be dif-
ferent from eating disorder
prevention. … We are work-
ing towards the same goal,
but we get stuck in these silos
with this messaging that is
off-putting to the other field.
If we are addressing obesity
with the expense of increas-
ing weight stigma, body dis-
satisfaction and disordered
eating, that’s a real prob-

As a researcher, former

athlete and subject of disor-
dered eating, Carson hopes
to see greater efforts into
redefining the face of eating

“Eating disorders are not

about the size of your body,
they’re about your thoughts.
I think it’s really good for
people to be aware of that
— you may have friends and
family members who may
not look like what you see
on a TV show, but it’s really
not about your size or your
BMI,” Carson said. “It’s
about this obsessive thought

always thought I couldn’t
have an eating disorder —
I’m not small enough, I’m
not thin enough. It’s not
about that.”


eating disorders to be rec-
ognized as the medical con-
ditions they are.

“You can look at that as

having a glass of wine with
dinner is normal, but if the
emphasis becomes so much
on the drinking that you
become an alcoholic, we treat
that as an illness,” he said.
“We don’t treat that as just an
annoying behavior, there is
something wrong that needs
specific treatment.”

Like addiction, like any

mental illness, eating disor-
ders and disordered eating
should be treated the same

“The right thing to do is

to get treated, just as if you
had diabetes or cancer or a
broken leg, you’d seek treat-
ment,” he said. “And there’s
no stigma attached to those
other medical issues, why
should there be for eating

From Page 5B


Public Health professor Kendrin Sonneville and Public Health graduate Traci Carson

Back to Top

© 2024 Regents of the University of Michigan