Athletes & Eating Disorders – An Olympic Hopeful Shares His Journey

Athletes are 2-3x more at risk for eating disorders compared with other populations. Those impacted span all types of sports, competitive levels and genders.

One example is David Proctor, a former All-American runner at Boston University and current Olympic hopeful. One might think he doesn’t fit the typical profile for someone with an eating disorder, but the reality is there is no typical profile. An eating disorder can happen to any athlete – no one is immune.

Walden was fortunate to have David share his powerful story as part of our latest Facebook Live. He was joined by Paula Quatromoni, senior consultant for Walden’s GOALS Program for Competitive Athletes and tenured associate professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology at Boston University, who played an active role in David’s recovery.

Some takeaways:

The eating disorder stemmed from something millions of athletes encounter. David details how his eating disorder was born from the pressure to perform and live up to the expectations of his college scholarship. He also shares how a lack of nutrition education contributed.

“Thinner did not equal winning.”  You’ll hear how David’s disorder was fueled by many misconceptions, including the view he had to lose weight to run faster. As he discovered, “it just wasn’t true.” He shares how one of his proudest moments (frankly, an amazing milestone) is absolutely proof of this.

The impact goes beyond sport. David discusses how his eating disorder “caught up to him” in more ways than one, including time away from the track, challenges on campus and hard sacrifices with personal relationships.

Recovery requires a team. For David, “there was no specific person that had all the answers to every question I had.” He illustrates why a multi-disciplinary team was key to gaining “a much wider understanding of what was going on” and eventually beating the disorder.

An eating disorder is not a “woman’s problem.” David shares how his motivations at the time – and the resulting misconceptions – cross all genders. In fact, he’ll discuss why being a male actually made him even more committed to recovery.

Coaches can play a critical role in prevention. You’ll hear his honest advice for coaches, especially how something most innately do can reinforce disordered eating.

Some sound advice for athletes. “Be honest with yourself. Understand what it is you’re doing, why you’re doing it and what your end goal is.” He’ll give you some suggestions on putting all these pieces together.

Are you – or do you know – an athlete struggling with disordered eating or inadequate nutrition? Make sure to check out the GOALS Program!