What Coaches Can Do to Prevent Eating Disorders (Q&A with Paula Quatromoni, Part 3)

This is Part 3 of the Q&A with leading specialist in eating disorders and sports, Paula Quatromoni. You can also read Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.

Q: What can coaches do to build a healthy culture and prevent eating disorders?

A: First, I’d recommend education. There is a lot that coaches can do to educate themselves and increase awareness on the topic of eating disorders in sport. They can turn to Walden GOALS materials, our resource guideRunning in Silence and Running in Silence blog posts, Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook, and credible websites like NEDA, etc. They can also attend lectures, events, and coaching conferences to engage in continuing education on the topic. Armed with this information, coaches can address concerns that they see on their teams in a one-on-one conversation and a referral to the AT like we were talking about in that last Q&A.

Read more

For Coaches, Approaching an Athlete with an Eating Disorder (Q&A with Paula Quatromoni Part 2)

This is Part 2 of a Q&A with leading specialist in eating disorders and sports, Paula Quatromoni. Read Part 1 here.

Q: How do you recommend approaching an athlete you think might have an eating disorder?

A: Set up a private meeting with the athlete to discuss your concerns. Never, ever, ever do this in public and do not do it without some purposeful thought and advance preparation. In other words, do not have this conversation off the cuff or in the heat of a moment when you are having any kind of emotionally charged interaction with the athlete, like after a bad sport performance or when they suffer an injury.

It is important that you know the signs and symptoms of an eating disorder and that you have objective data and personal observations that align with those warning signs. Do not act on hearsay or second-hand information that could be false or inaccurate. Make notes about your observations and your concerns so that you can stay focused on the facts when you have this conversation.

Read more

For Coaches, How to Help Athletes with Eating Disorders (Q&A with Paula Quatromoni Part 1)

Ever since meeting Paula Quatromoni at the Eating Disorders in Sport Conference last August, we have been in constant communication. Paula even had me come speak at Boston University to talk about my eating disorder experience, recovery process, and the book Running in Silence, which she endorses as a great resource for athletes and coaches, along with the information she provides below (including a downloadable PDF guide).

Paula has been especially helpful for me since I am not an expert/professional in the area of treating eating disorders. So as one of the leading experts in this field, it is a privilege and an honor to have Paula answer a few questions to help coaches better work with athletes who may have eating/weight struggles. Stay tuned for another Q&A with Paula in the near future!

Q: What can coaches/parents/sports programs do if an athlete is resistant to going to an eating disorder therapist or dietitian, but very clearly struggling with an eating disorder?

Read more

“Why Aren’t We Talking About This?” Coaches & Eating Disorders

After my presentation at the cross country and track coaches clinic in Illinois (ITCCCA), I was told that one of the coaches who attended my talk appreciated the presentation, and had heard “nothing like it” before. In fact, she thought it to be so unique and important, that she wondered why this wasn’t being told at all the other conferences.

That’s the obstacle right now. Many people don’t realize the monstrosity of the issue, and we are still at the beginning stages of awareness. We still have very little discussion on it, and most of the time the only coaches attending these kind of talks are those who know one athlete on their team who struggles with an eating disorder.

What I’ve been proposing is that this is an issue all coaches should be aware of, and openly talk about with their athletes each year. We cannot afford to wait for an athlete to approach us about an eating disorder (if they ever do bring it up), or only “look” for it in a skeletal frame. Most eating disorders don’t even necessarily HAVE an “appearance.”

Read more

Book Tour: First Stop Colchester, Vermont

I recently took on my first book tour 11/29 through 12/7, landing in Boston, driving to Vermont to speak at Saint Michael’s College, driving back to Boston to speak at BU, driving to Rhode Island to speak at URI (Kingston), and back to Boston for one last talk at BU. The following details my journey on Wednesday 11/29 through Thursday 11/30.

Book Tour Day 1: Up at 3:30am, arrived in Boston by 9am, grabbed a rental car and I was off for a 4-hour drive to Colchester, VERMONT!

To say that it was a beautiful drive would be an understatement. I hadn’t looked much into Vermont with the limited time I had in the weeks leading up to this mini book tour (it felt like I was just suddenly on this trip–it came up FAST!) so I had no idea what I was getting into, but it was a very pleasant surprise.

A quick description: Miles upon miles of tree-lined roads, Moose Crossing signs (we have DEER crossing signs in Michigan), rolling roads, vast expanses of mountains (not sure if they were mountains, but they were definitely mounds bigger than what you see in Michigan). I was in awe, and the moment I arrived at Saint Michael’s College, I couldn’t stop telling everyone I met about my drive (the student athlete journalist who interviewed me for the school newspaper, the photographer for the school newspaper, and later my host Emily and the SAAC leader and the athletic director… the list goes on).

Read more

The Race Many Coaches Have Yet to Run

This weekend I spoke at the MITCA (Michigan Interscholastic Track Coaches Association) cross country coaches clinic to share my eating disorder story (as a reflection of many stories), my recovery process, what may cause eating disorders in running, and of course, how coaches can address this topic each year with their athletes.

I don’t think I’ve ever been this nervous for a presentation in my life. Speaking for an audience I’ve wanted to reach for years made me want to get it down “perfectly.” I am aware that I have other opportunities ahead of me, but I also know that each time I get in front of a group, as someone who has been through an eating disorder, written about it, and coaches as well, it is my responsibility to reach these coaches in the right way.

Read more

Coaching: The More We Speak Up, the More They Will, Too

My “senior year” of cross country coaching finishes up in a few weeks with Jenni Callendar, and after that I will be speaking to Michigan cross country coaches at the MITCA clinic in November to discuss the prevalence of eating disorders in runners, how to approach the topic within our own teams, and why we should speak up every year. I’m in year 4 of coaching and still learning so much; my own methods of raising awareness on the team hasn’t come easily, and the first year I thought just having the knowledge was enough. If I wait for them to come to me, they may never come.

The more we speak up, the more they will, too.

Order your copy of Running in Silence: My Drive for Perfection and the Eating Disorder That Fed It here.

Promote a Healthy Attitude About Sport and Fitness

EDCare recently designed an infographic that I believe very well describes 12 signs that an athlete or fitness enthusiast is closer to injury and illness than health and wellness–many of which are associated with eating disorders. It also includes tips for parents and coaches on how to spot signs of obsessive exercise and unhealthy eating patters. Thus, I was glad to have them share it in this guest post. Please check out the post by EDCare below, and at http://eatingdisorder.care/index for more information and resources!

Young athletes may dream of becoming the next Serena Williams or Tom Brady, but most know that it’s just that — a dream. They come to realize that top athletes are a rare breed. Even so, they press on. They still want to see how far they can go with their own physical abilities and mental stamina.

Read more

Why I Kept Silent About My Eating Disorder, and Why Coaches Shouldn’t

Dear Coach,

You are required to detect the early signs of concussions, and to know when to stop an athlete from continuing to play, all with good reason: concussions are common in many sports. Unfortunately, so are eating disorders—and we still don’t know how to talk about them. Coaches aren’t even required to discuss them.

By leaving this topic in the dark, we are failing our athletes. And as a past eating disorder sufferer and runner, my heart breaks to see other athletes struggle as I did—in SILENCE–because they don’t think their eating disorder is “bad enough,” or they don’t think you would understand. I read these emails, and hear these stories over

and over

and over again.

As a fellow cross country coach, I want to thank you for wanting to do something about this.

Read more

Weight Loss & Running Faster: Beyond Fuel

“But Rachael, you need fuel to run well.”

“Your body is a machine. You are the driver. The body needs fuel and maintenance.”

“If you burn it, it really does not matter what you put in the furnace.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard these comments, and easily dismissed them in the depths of my eating disorder while running. I knew how important food was. In fact, I knew everything about food. When anyone assumed I didn’t see food as fuel, it was tough for me to give them much credit since all they knew about nutrition was that you eat to have energy.

Read more