Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tanith Belbin: A Story of Hope

I recently wrote about eating disorders in the world of figure skating. (You can read that post by clicking here.) For those of you who did not see that post and don't feel like backtracking and reading it, I will give you the super quick summary. Jenny Kirk, a former competitive figure skater, did a two part interview with the Huffington Post that brought attention to the pervasive problem of eating disorders in figure skating. Kirk battled an eating disorder and is now in recovery, attending college and raising awareness about eating disorders. You can read more about her story by following the link above.

In her interview, Kirk said that based on her experience in the competitive, world class world of figure skating, nearly 85% of competitive figure skaters have eating disorders. That number is excruciatingly high. In spite of such discouraging statistics, the New York Times just wrote an article on ice dancer Tanith Belbin, an Olympic silver medalist (2006) who is currently competing in the Winter Olympics. Her story is a positive one that elicits hope and the possibility of change, and you don't always hear the uplifting side of some of these stories. For this reason, I want as many people to know about it as possible!

Belbin's story is one of disordered eating that put her at risk for losing her competitive edge on the ice due to her exceedingly thin stature. She was advised by her coach, Natalia Linichuk, to add some muscles and curves so that she would skate better. While the process was not always comfortable for her, Belbin learned to fuel her body and its needs in order to perform optimally at such an elite level. She is now at a healthier weight, and not only does she feel better physically, but her skating has benefitted immensely. Her ice dancing partner has even noticed that she is able to hold herself up better and has more strength. What I really love is that she states that she has become more adventurous and open to trying new things off the ice, like climbing. Belbin and her partner skate on Friday in the 2010 Olympics. To read more about her story, follow this link to read the NY Times article that was written on her this week.

Just as a quick aside, at the end of the article, Belbin says that the moral of the story is not that skaters need to necessarily seek out the professional help of nutritionists in order to eat right; she says instead that they should become educated about what is healthy and pursue this knowledge on their own. I think that for some, this can be effective; but for the majority, having a nutritionist is essential in becoming educated about portion sizes and what is appropriate and healthy. It is common for those with eating disorders to misjudge what they actually need, and not everyone can achieve health without additional support. If you know someone who needs support, don't be afraid to offer your help in finding what she/he needs!

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