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Competing and Diet Culture

*Trigger warning: We are discussing dieting, diet culture, mindset and tracking.

One thing (in my opinion) we don’t talk about enough is how diet culture shows up in competitive sports. As athletes we feel like we need to give 100% at all times or we are less than. Macros need to be perfect 0's always everyday, day in and out, eating for enjoyment is practically nonexistent and more often than not this is praised as dedication. An unnecessary amount of stress and obsession finds its way into our lives and ultimately impacts our love of the sport. Because who wants to give it their all when they are burnt out?

Fueling your body for your sport can be all consuming and outright lonely. It is hard enough training in a way that your friends and loved ones don’t and then you isolate yourself from events as well. Can’t go because you can’t control the food or because you don’t want to be the only one not drinking (this is an entirely different topic). But what if you could learn to have both. To reconcile that all foods have a place, your macros or plan will fluctuate with your real life and that you can still train/be competitive?

So how do we make these changes? To start, we need to ask ourselves the age-old question of “why?” and keep going until we get to the root of why we feel like our views and practices of nutrition need to be so strict and stringent. Why can't we work in phases like we do our training. Then working with your coach or coaches you begin the process of reframing or retraining your mindset. This means journaling those thoughts and feelings as they come up. Having open and honest conversations with yourself and your team and ultimately reminding yourself of your long term goals. If that is longevity in your sport, learning how to have your nutrition adapt like your training cycles will be crucial. Food joy and freedom can and does belong in your life. No matter what level you compete at. A great starting point is thinking about how you deload your intensity in your training, how are you deloading your nutrition protocol? Taking a week off from tracking? Maybe two. Switch to flexible tracking instead of numbers every day for some of your off season.

I could talk about this topic for an eternity. As a competitive athlete myself who was walking the fine line of disordered eating and eating disorder, I know what it means to heal and come out the other side. To still be competing and excelling without the panic attack when I don’t hit my numbers one day. Or having a breakdown because I don’t want to go out to the event because I won't be able to control the food being served.

I am going to leave you with this. Do you know who my FAVORITE examples of healing through nutrition and still being competitive AF are? Dani Speegle, Kelsey Kiel, Coach Mary, and Sarah Robles, there are so many strong women who I can name but I am leaving you with these four badass competitors.

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