It's not a secret many female athletes (and women in general) battle body image issues. But for men, eating disorders are kept far more hush-hush. In a way, that almost makes them more dangerous to deal with—a recent interview with Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon about his history with disordered eating proves how desperate things can get for people without a sounding board or a support system to help.
During the 2016 United States figure-skating championships, Rippon weighed 140 pounds. Despite this, Rippon said he was desperate for a body type like the one his teenage teammates Nathan Chen and Vincent Zhou—who were shorter, younger, and thinner—had.
To get it, Rippon ate three slices of whole-grain bread topped with a butter spread and three cups of coffee with Splenda. Per day.
And he doesn't think he was (or is) the only one. Though many male figure skaters told The New York Times they knew competitors with eating disorders, only Rippon owned up to having one himself.
Sports naturally breed competition and attract competitive people, so there's a lot of pressure to look and perform a certain way. Rippon thinks opening up the conversation about disordered eating will encourage people to get help if they need it, and we agree.
Body-image issues are not gendered and are not a sign of weakness. They affect everyone—no matter how superhuman someone may seem. It's absolutely vital, for both the health of figure skating and its athletes, that we maintain an open, running dialogue about eating disorders and the danger of putting too much emphasis on physical appearance.
It IS possible to be in incredible shape and have a healthy relationship with food—it may be a difficult balance to strike, but it's one worth striving for.