Richard Stockton College Athletic Training

Sports Nutrition Newsletter
A periodic Newsletter that addresses the Nutritional aspects
of athletic competition.

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Nancy Brinch, MS, RD, LSW, is Richard Stockton College's campus nutritionist. She obtained her BS in Food and Nutriton from the Univ. of Delaware and her Master's in Nutrition from Penn State Univ.

She provides individual, confidential nutritional counseling to students. Her service is free for RSC students. For appointments call extension 5740. Nancy Brinch can be contacted at

Disordered Eating in Athletes

By Nancy Brinch, MS, RD, LSW

Most athletes view food as a fuel that supports their efforts to attain their highest possible athletic performance. But some athletes find themselves obsessing about food, weight and exercise. They worry about what they are going to eat. They worry about what they ate and think they shouldn't have eaten. They feel guilty if they eat foods they do not consider healthy or if they eat normal portion sizes. They exercise compulsively to burn the calories they consume at meals and snacks. They do not allow themselves to enjoy social eating with friends out of fear they may consume too many calories.

Restrictive eating can have a negative impact on athletic performance. While it is true that carrying an extra ten or fifteen pounds can impair athletic performance, it is also true that being ten or fifteen pounds underweight can have negative consequences - reduced energy and endurance, weaker muscles, stress fractures, getting pushed around the field or court, as well as increased time spent obsessing about food and exercise.

An athlete who does not meet the diagnostic criteria for an eating disorder can still show signs and symptoms of disordered eating that can impair physical and mental health as well as athletic performance. The National Eating Disorders Association suggests you ask yourself the following questions:

•Do you constantly calculate numbers of fat grams, grams of carbohydrate and calories?
•Do you weigh yourself often and find yourself obsessed with the number on the scale?
•Are you afraid of gaining weight?
•Do you exercise because you have to and not because you want to?
•Do your eating patterns include extreme dieting, preferences for certain •healthy" foods, withdrawn or ritualized behavior at mealtime or secretive bingeing?
•Do you avoid eating meals or snacks when you're around other people?
•Have weight loss, dieting and/or control of food become one of your major concerns?
•Do you feel ashamed, disgusted or guilty after eating?
•Do you feel like your identity and value is based on how you look or how much you weigh?
•Do you worry about the weight, shape or size of your body?
•Do you ever feel out of control when you are eating?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions you may be experiencing disordered eating. It is very likely these attitudes and behaviors are taking a toll on your physical and mental well-being. These behaviors can quickly get out of control and develop into an eating disorder if they are not recognized and dealt with appropriately.

What causes disordered eating?
There are many reasons disordered eating develops. Most people with disordered eating feel they are inadequate. Dieting helps them to feel more powerful and to feel a greater sense of achievement and control. Not eating is a way to feel more special and unique, to feel more perfect. These individuals tend to think that if they can lose weight they will be happier. By not eating enough food to satisfy their physical hunger and to maintain a healthy weight, they find themselves continually thinking about food and their weight. Their preoccupation with thoughts of food and body image protects them from feeling and dealing with more difficult issues such as unhappy emotions. Our society teaches us that we should always feel happy and never experience anger or sadness. This is not realistic. It is normal to experience problems and setbacks in life. Persons with disordered eating unconsciously use dieting and over-exercising to avoid feeling these negative emotions instead of acknowledging them and searching for ways to solve their problems.

Ways to Deal With Disordered Eating
If you think you may be dealing with disordered eating, discussing your concerns with a professional is the first step in overcoming this problem. Athletes at Stockton can start with the Athletic Training Staff. Students and Athletes at Richard Stockton College can schedule appointments with the doctor, a counselor and with the campus nutritionist in the Wellness Center free of charge. These professionals will discuss your concerns with you, tell you whether you have disordered eating or an eating disorder, and guide you through the recovery process.

If you think a friend may have disordered eating or an eating disorder, you should discuss your concerns with your friend in a caring way. Set aside a time to talk in a place where there will be no distractions. Explain your concerns using as examples a few behavioral instances that indicate why you are worried about your friend's health and safety. Use "I" statements ("I'm concerned because you never eat lunch and dinner.") Avoid "You" statements ("You are exercising too much.") "You" statements can place shame, blame and guilt on the person. Avoid suggesting simple solutions ("You just have to eat.") Instead, acknowledge that this is a difficult problem that may require the help of a health professional. Offer to go with your friend to the first appointment if you and your friend feel comfortable doing so. If your friend denies there is a problem or refuses to seek help and you are still worried about your friend's health and safety, schedule an appointment with a health professional to discuss your concerns.

Richard Stockton College students can schedule a free and confidential appointment with a counselor by calling Counseling Services at (609) 652 - 4722. They can schedule a free and confidential appointment with a doctor or the nutritionist by calling Health Services at (609) 652- 4701.

Other helpful resources include:

Something Fishy Web Site
Extensive online information and recovery support for individuals and loved ones.

National Eating Disorders Web Site
Information, educational materials, referrals.

Gurze Books
Online bookstore for eating disorders.

Questions or comments regarding the Athletic Training Pages should be directed to 
Jon Heck at: