For runners and other athletes it is important to maintain a healthy weight but when does it border on an obsession? This turned out to be a very interesting issue for Tanya Davis who wrote an article recently which appeared in Trail Runner Magazine. She describes a compulsion to restrict calories to the extreme and not to allow herself to gain even one pound. This is a dangerous and slippery slope to be on because it can have a disastrous affect your health especially for women. I believe that obsessive caloric restriction is not worth the health risk.
Obsessive Caloric Restriction is Not Worth the Health Risk
Rationally, I understand that being 5’6” and 120 pounds. is an acceptable weight for a female, but I have intense trepidation of adding just one pound. If I’ve kept my calories to a minimum, I feel svelte and proud. While pro athletes regularly undergo weigh-ins and body-composition evaluation by physicians hired to keep their bodies primed for competition, I have no such data to keep me in line; I have only a scale, nutrition labels and pessimistic thoughts. I have a propensity to compare my physique to other women runners, often ignoring my actual performance in favor of my visual expectations for myself.
What to do about this terrible business of finding our optimal weight for performance without disturbing the body’s wellness? Be aware that trying to decrease weight when you’re already close to optimal size often leads to illness or injury. If you don’t maintain adequate caloric intake to match the stress of training, you’re likely to lose muscle mass. Severe calorie restriction can also lead to malnutrition; symptoms include fatigue, weak muscle contraction, anemia, frequent injuries, brittle bones, sleep disturbances, fertility complications and slow recovery from training.
When a woman under-eats, her menstrual cycle and energy levels can experience drastic, negative consequences. Estrogen production is halted under high levels of bodily stress, putting a woman at increased risk for osteoporosis and injury. In fact, restricted calorie intake is a higher risk factor than low body fat in and of itself; recent studies show that as long as calorie consumption is adequate, women can healthily maintain low body-fat percentages equal to athletic men.
Athletes are always trying to improve their performance but in the end if you do not supply the body with enough fuel for your workouts you are doing more damage than good. It’s not uncommon for female runners to develop this type of eating disorder but it is not limited to just women. Men also compare their physical performance to other athletes and they may feel pressured to compete. Self control can go to the extreme and become more about control than actually achieving better health.
Has this kind of obsessive caloric restriction ever been a problem for you or someone you know? Share your thoughts or comments below and Like us on Facebook.