Sloane Green

eating disorder recovery coach

Individual & Family Coaching

Writer

Should We Weigh Our Athletes?

Today I’m on the other side of this personal issue, whether or not we should weigh our athletes.

 Photo by  Jennifer Burk  on  Unsplash

Photo by Jennifer Burk on Unsplash

I used to be an athlete; one who struggled with her weight. I would have fought, tooth-and-nail, to never step on a scale. Yet, my curiosity always took over, and I always regretted it.

Weighing myself never gave me anything good – too much, and I beat myself up; too little, and I was scared it might tip the other direction. Struggling with the scale didn’t mean that I was always trying to lose weight, or was significantly out of shape or overweight. No.

I struggled with my weight, in that I always thought about it. I always cared how I looked in my uniform, and compared myself to my teammates. I thought about what I used to look like, as well as how I “should,” or might look one day.

I didn’t always look like I struggled, but I did.

I cared so much at one time that I would have rather not eat something, even if it was “healthy,” than feel uncomfortable in my spandex shorts. I would have rather not worked hard later to “burn it off.” I would rather be on the extreme side of the deficit, than be part of the group that stayed after practice to run extra stadiums... because then, what would that mean about myself?

I struggled so much that when I became underweight, I didn’t see why that was a problem. I used to be heavier, and now I’m not. Aren’t I good?

We can see the problem in other people, and we are quick to judge him or her. I’ve seen it with my coaches, and now I see it as a coach with other professionals:

If she’s overweight, she eats poorly.

If you can’t see his muscles developing, he is lazy.

Just like there is white privilege, there is weight privilege. We might be impressed about a thin girl: “Wow, she ate her whole meal, plus dessert – where does it all go?”

In the same situation, we would say, “Ugh, no wonder she’s so big,” about an overweight person.

We judge, and we write off athletes for not being dedicated enough.

But when they’re too skinny, or maybe naturally have the genetics to become toned quickly? We deem them disciplined and hard workers. They are focused on their sport and prove it with their supremely fit bodies.

And what we don’t consider is that both types of athletes – those over- and underweight – might both have personal issues and struggles surrounding their weight.

I said I was on the other side of this personal issue, but I mean that in sports. As a culture, we seem to always carry this with us, and weight seems like it’s an important characterization of who we are. So, in life, I am with you still.

The “other side” I am referring to is that I am not the one struggling to fit into an athletic standard. I am amongst professionals sizing up athletes, ensuring their performance is top-notch, and teaching them how to get there.

I see athletes struggling with what I did, too, and I empathize. My opinions as a former struggling athlete are muted as other professionals (try to) convince me that weekly weigh-ins are necessary for the benefit of the athlete, team, and coach, who is paying their way through school.

I understand the reasoning behind weigh-ins: “If they’re not at their ‘peak weight,’ their performance might suffer.” And, “We need to see if we’re pushing our athletes too hard, or not hard enough.”

But I see the message that athletes might choose to hear:

“Your weight is more important than anything else.”

A weight stigma (the internalized beliefs and attitudes we hold toward one’s weight, especially among those who might be targeted and discriminated against because he or she is bigger or smaller) becomes attached to the person, and the beliefs are reiterated each time he or she steps on the scale. “One number is ‘good’ and if I’m not there, I must be ‘bad.’ I want to be good.”

A weight stigma (the internalized beliefs and attitudes we hold toward one’s weight, especially among those who might be targeted and discriminated against because he or she is bigger or smaller) becomes attached to the person, and the beliefs are reiterated each time he or she steps on the scale. “One number is ‘good’ and if I’m not there, I must be ‘bad.’ I want to be good.”


Someone recently asked me about weigh-ins for athletes, given my history with an eating disorder. “I don’t see [Insert Name] ever having a problem.”

Why? Because she’s overweight?

Maybe there is a lack of education in this area, but just because a person is overweight does not meant she isn’t struggling… or have an eating disorder. I can’t believe I have to say this.

When I first started my path to destruction, guess what? I was not underweight. Some might say I was a few pounds over my “ideal” body weight (whatever that is).

I have never watched a player perform his or her sport and say, “Wow, if only she was 10 pounds less…” Rather, I have evaluated athletes on skill and talent, and never placed the reason for being good or bad on his or her weight. “He doesn’t jump well,” – not because he is too heavy. Maybe he doesn’t do jump training. “She’s fast,” – not necessarily because she’s the skinniest kid.

So, I’m not sure weighing an athlete tells us exactly what we want to know.

We, as adults, coaches and professionals, need to focus on the message of, “Let’s focus on your weaknesses and build up your strengths.” It could be fitness. It could be nutritional education to all body sizes.

That’s not weight.

 

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