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Body weight, image, and eating disorders (Read 16640 times)

andy_e

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Body weight, image, and eating disorders
February 01, 2021, 06:21:21 pm


I feel like this film is pretty important. I've not really paid much attention to discussions of dieting and weight on here, but I do think that there's a lot of unhealthy attitudes towards eating in climbing in general, which is neither good for those with disordered eating, trending towards an eating disorder, or newer climbers seeing or hearing about being light, thinking it's a necessary part of climbing, and developing disordered eating habits.

In the past I've calorie counted pretty strictly. Now I don't, and generally I eat a lot more, but am climbing harder than ever, and don't have any anxiety or disorder when it comes to food. I can't be the only "regular guy" to be in a similar situation.

Dave MacLeod is often cited as someone whose personal experiments with diets (e.g. keto) are a reason why people should follow specific diets whilst training, but I think this makes dangerous assumptions. Firstly Dave Mac is Dave Mac, and people's hormone levels differ naturally, so extreme dieting will affect different people differently. Dave's always keen to point out that "n=1" with his experiments, and that he's only doing it for himself, but I'm not sure people pick up on that and end up following his extreme diets anyway. Secondly, and probably most importantly, Dave is a trained sports scientist, and knows his limits, so whilst it could be argued that Dave has a disordered relationship with food (especially raspberry cheesecakes), he seems to be totally in control of his diet. This will not work for everyone.

The film is very honest, open, positive, and thought provoking. It shows that you do not need to be a rake, unhealthy and at risk of serious bodily damage, to climb your best, you just need determination. Like most things in climbing, or a toxically masculine environment, talking about these things is difficult, but I urge everyone to do so. Eat healthy, be happy with your own body, climb hard.

Fiend

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#1 Re: Body weight, image, and eating disorders
February 01, 2021, 09:56:32 pm
 :worms: :worms: :worms:

We're gonna need a bigger can!!

Climbing - despite what you say - is partly unavoidably based around power-to-weight (relative to height), and is also an obsessive, driven, goal-chasing fixation. It's not surprising that it's rife with people crossing over from "sensible healthy athletic diets" to full-on mentally/physically destructive eating disorders, whether they're clear about it, pretend they don't have a disorder, or use some fancy terminology-babble like "REDS".

Having said that it fucking sucks being on the other side of the fence, with a digestive / fitness disorder instead of an eating disorder. Yes at some points in your life you can climb better heavier than when you were lighter, but it will invariably be DESPITE the heaviness not because of it (unless you're starting from having a particularly extreme muscular deficiency issue). Determination is great but can only do so much against carrying an extra 15kg above a normal healthy weight up, especially when that extra weight carries extra injury risks in training to compensate for it.

And yes, what works for Dave Mac clearly can work very well if, errr, you're Dave Mac, and all that entails with research, self-discipline, robotic willpower, etc.


Good worms to unleash anyway.

shark

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#2 Re: Body weight, image, and eating disorders
February 02, 2021, 09:21:43 am
Thought provoking and difficult subject with some insightful thoughts and experiences from the interviewed climbers.

Viewing should prompt a reality check to ask yourself what your attitude to your own weight is and whether that is fucked up in any way whether rooted in body image or performance.

At a group level it asks whether the community you are in is fucked up and whether you might be unknowingly contributing to others disorders?. How careful do we have to be in what we say? and at what point do you address friends who look at risk and if you do how do you go about it?


steveri

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#3 Re: Body weight, image, and eating disorders
February 02, 2021, 10:10:12 am

At a group level it asks whether the community you are in is fucked up and whether you might be unknowingly contributing to others disorders?
Haven't watched the film yet - I will - but this is a useful point. Our subset of the population is not 'normal'. In my other sport the scrawny are also rewarded and successful. I remember browsing a copy of 'Fellrunner' at work some time ago and my colleague's horror at the skeletal figures within. You know, the role models for that other freak community. I know of at least a couple of people at national success level ...with eating disorders.

Correlation is not causation of course, the people at the very top of all kinds of trees are by definition unusual animals.

abarro81

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#4 Re: Body weight, image, and eating disorders
February 02, 2021, 10:21:50 am
Our subset of the population is not 'normal'.

An aside (not watched the film yet, will try to later), but probably best to steer away from comparison to "normal" since "normal" is not healthy in most of the UK

Davo

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#5 Re: Body weight, image, and eating disorders
February 03, 2021, 09:25:32 am
So, watched this yesterday evening and not sure what to make of it to be honest. Firstly on the positive note I think it raises some important issues that especially young and impressionable climbers need to be aware of. Itís also well made and I liked the interviews with Angie Payne and Emily Harrington.

However I donít think it is particularly balanced and doesnít do anything to discuss what a healthy weight is and how given climbing is a power/strength to weight sport there is a balance to be struck between weight and strength. Avoiding the fact that most people will probably need at least to control what they eat and avoid gaining too much weight doesnít help. I also thought that it was overly somber and grim. I think this comes from the fact that the film maker has an eating disorder herself and then projects these issues onto all that she sees.

By the way I am not saying that I donít think some people have issues in the world of climbing and the recent over-caffeinated sugary drink company video of Angela Eitner shows (in my opinion) that some clearly do. However I just donít think that for the majority of people (even those climbing fairly hard) things are as grim as she portrays.

Happy to be contradicted here, this was just my opinion of the film

Dave

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#6 Re: Body weight, image, and eating disorders
February 03, 2021, 09:41:34 am
However I donít think it is particularly balanced and doesnít do anything to discuss what a healthy weight is and how given climbing is a power/strength to weight sport there is a balance to be struck between weight and strength.

Canít anyone enjoy climbing, irrespective of their weight?

Increasingly down the wall you see all shapes and sizes. And there are so many children starting climbing at a very young age now. You might get healthier by participating in climbing but as soon as youíre talking about weight loss to improve performance itís dangerous ground IMO.

As someone who started dieting from age 11 because all the top climbers were skinny, I found it a pretty difficult film to watch. Climbing culture is pretty fucked up in my opinion and the fact that they only got one guy on camera says a lot.

Davo

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#7 Re: Body weight, image, and eating disorders
February 03, 2021, 10:10:04 am
However I donít think it is particularly balanced and doesnít do anything to discuss what a healthy weight is and how given climbing is a power/strength to weight sport there is a balance to be struck between weight and strength.

Canít anyone enjoy climbing, irrespective of their weight?

Increasingly down the wall you see all shapes and sizes. And there are so many children starting climbing at a very young age now. You might get healthier by participating in climbing but as soon as youíre talking about weight loss to improve performance itís dangerous ground IMO.

As someone who started dieting from age 11 because all the top climbers were skinny, I found it a pretty difficult film to watch. Climbing culture is pretty fucked up in my opinion and the fact that they only got one guy on camera says a lot.

I agree that anyone can enjoy climbing regardless of size and shape and as you say there are many people down the wall of all kinds of body shapes etc. This is great and I clearly think climbing is an amazing sport/lifestyle and I think everyone should do it.

I disagree that climbing culture is fucked up. I agree that some people may have some dangerous ideas about weight and body image and that we need as a sport to be clear about this. However I also think it is reasonable to accept that climbing is a strength to weight sport and that achieving a healthy balance to achieve performance is fine. I do agree that it is difficult ground but to avoid the discussion is not helpful as it is the reality that most people who have climbed for a long period and are unlikely to make significant strength gains find themselves in.

Again happy to be contradicted here

Dave

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#8 Re: Body weight, image, and eating disorders
February 03, 2021, 10:20:30 am
I donít feel that the film set out to be balanced, I saw it more as a personal reflection, a story of two friends, and a cautionary tale.

Liamhutch89

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#9 Re: Body weight, image, and eating disorders
February 03, 2021, 10:28:59 am
No doubt there are some issues amongst the elite (elite sport is generally unhealthy) and I can imagine some of this trickles down to a susceptible minority. However, for the most part, I look around and all I can see are people who appear healthier because of climbing. Appearances may not always be reality but I think for the most part they are.

In fact, every climber I know that started climbing around the same time as me or after appears healthier and fitter than prior to climbing, and I haven't heard of, nor do I suspect any mental health issues amongst them relating to diet or body image. There also seems to be mounting evidence that caloric restriction can increase life expectancy and health outcomes.

teestub

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For an example closer to home and current day, Jo Neame wrote some V honest stuff on her insta https://www.instagram.com/p/CC4Jq8WDeZa/?igshid=5d4tq5xotq7l

T_B

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Of course the best thing is to achieve a healthy balance.

Through the late Ď80s and Ď90s low body weight was promoted as the ideal. If you can get hold of a copy of The Power of Climbing or On The Edge magazine youíll see what I mean. Malcolm Smithís broccoli diet was celebrated in the 1991 issue ĎThe Young Onesí and is still talked about now, almost with reverence by some people of my generation/in my peer group. Thatís fucked up.

I donít want to avoid Ďdiscussioní but the fact that there are so few qualified people in climbing compared to other sports who know WTF they are talking about around nutrition etc is a big barrier.

And I donít think this is just an issue at elite level. I look around and see a lot of unhealthy climbers. Maybe Iíve spent too much time at The Foundry?! Itís just accepted, especially amongst men.

Oldmanmatt

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When I started climbing in the Ď70s, my ďheroesĒ smoked tabs (rolling them, one handed, whilst run out above a dodgy hex, contemplating some greasy, thrutchy crux), ate pasties* and finished a days climbing in a snug with five or six pints and a basket of chicken** and chips...

Not sure that much has changed in the ďhealthy role modelĒ department, except a lurch from one extreme to the other.

*Lunch
**Deep fried, in lard, with the skin on (and a couple of packets of Pork Scratchings to cap pints 3&4).

Davo

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Of course the best thing is to achieve a healthy balance.

Through the late Ď80s and Ď90s low body weight was promoted as the ideal. If you can get hold of a copy of The Power of Climbing or On The Edge magazine youíll see what I mean. Malcolm Smithís broccoli diet was celebrated in the 1991 issue ĎThe Young Onesí and is still talked about now, almost with reverence by some people of my generation/in my peer group. Thatís fucked up.

I donít want to avoid Ďdiscussioní but the fact that there are so few qualified people in climbing compared to other sports who know WTF they are talking about around nutrition etc is a big barrier.

And I donít think this is just an issue at elite level. I look around and see a lot of unhealthy climbers. Maybe Iíve spent too much time at The Foundry?! Itís just accepted, especially amongst men.

I grew up climbing in the late 80s and clearly remember those issues. Personally I really wasnít climbing hard enough for me to make the connection and I just thought the broccoli thing was a joke.

I think the difficulty is that one personís healthy weight is another personís dangerously low body weight. I am sure that most people would agree that I am skinny (and you may even look at me and think I am unhealthy) but my BMI is about 20-21. I donít think I have ever dropped below 20. I gain some weight over Xmas and December (about 10-12pounds) and then lose this by eating healthily and not drinking alcohol for Jan and Feb.  For me this is not disordered eating it is just being healthy.

I agree the film didnít attempt to be balanced and was a reflection but I just think it would have been nice to also have some other view points in there.

Dave

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I agree with the arguments about lack of balance

My view of it was that the video was as much about people's relationship with food rather than their objective body weight.

I used to look at Ricky Hatton's up's and down's around fights and wonder how healthy that was. Equally, friends who competed at a high level in thai boxing had much better associations with food and were only up and down 5kg or so to get into their class.

tomtom

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I thought the film was fantastic.

In my view thinking climbing* does not have a problem with how it discusses - and positively treats low body weight (and thereby eating disorders) is a similar concept to thinking society does not have a problem with racism.

Comments about body weight, body shape, eating and dieting are common within this forum - throughout the climbing media and in many conversations at the wall. These are largely unintentional -  but if you think about it they are everywhere. I've done it - whether its saying 'feeling floaty' - 'lost a kilo or two and climbing well' etc..

I liked how the film framed climbing well about being strong (rather than light) and thats something I will take on board and try to adjust my language and behavior accordingly.

*and other bodyweight sports too I guess - but I'm not qualified to say......
« Last Edit: February 03, 2021, 12:14:58 pm by tomtom »

Liamhutch89

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I used to look at Ricky Hatton's up's and down's around fights and wonder how healthy that was. Equally, friends who competed at a high level in thai boxing had much better associations with food and were only up and down 5kg or so to get into their class.

Current professional fighting is about as unhealthy as it gets, and it's a shame as they are in absolute peak condition the week before the fight. However, modern weigh in procedures mean that to be competitive, you need to drop 10-20lbs of water weight in the days leading up to the weigh in and put it back on in 24 hours before the fight. That or be the smaller man. You may ask how much does 10lb matter? Well imagine projecting at your limit with an extra 10lbs!

Now imagine having to do this drastic water cut 30-60 times throughout a professional career (more including amateur contests) then getting punched in the head with a dehydrated brain (research shows the body rehydrates before the brain). CTE is just about guaranteed.

Davo

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I thought the film was fantastic.

In my view thinking climbing* does not have a problem with how it discusses and positively treats low body weight (and thereby eating disorders) is a similar concept to thinking society does not have a problem with racism.


Really!? This seems a bit of a stretch. Society quite clearly has a problem with racism. I donít think convoluting discussing weight and racism is helpful and just makes it difficult to discuss the topic without getting  into youíre wrong and Iím right kinds of discussions.

Dave

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I look around and see a lot of unhealthy climbers. Maybe Iíve spent too much time at The Foundry?! Itís just accepted, especially amongst men.
Genuine question. What visible signs are you judging these climbers to be unhealthy by?

andy_e

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In my view thinking climbing* does not have a problem with how it discusses and positively treats low body weight (and thereby eating disorders) is a similar concept to thinking society does not have a problem with racism.

This. "I don't see it therefore I don't think it exists" doesn't really address the issues that may well be personal to some people and hidden.

I'm not sure what balance there could be, the fact is that the culture within climbing leads to some people having disordered eating. I think the topic of "how to eat healthily" is a different topic altogether and needs to be addressed elsewhere.

mburke

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@ Liamhutch89

Yea good call, hadn't considered the extreme water drop too





T_B

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I look around and see a lot of unhealthy climbers. Maybe Iíve spent too much time at The Foundry?! Itís just accepted, especially amongst men.
Genuine question. What visible signs are you judging these climbers to be unhealthy by?

Very low body fat percentage. Frequent references to dieting/unhealthy diet and undereating. References to otherís body shape. Frequent injury occurrence. Desire for peer recognition of low body fat (Ďtops off for powerí etc)
« Last Edit: February 03, 2021, 12:33:50 pm by T_B »

mburke

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I'm sure when watching 'Eddie' on netflix, he discusses an almost unhealthy obsession with food/training and other obvious side effects (e.g. sleep apnea)

I'm not saying this should be normalised or that it's ideal. But I think there are potentially a whole range of unhealthy behaviours in lots of sports that are just accepted, rightly or wrongly

Liamhutch89

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the fact is that the culture within climbing leads to some people having disordered eating.

For this to be fact, the rate of disordered eating would have to be higher amongst climbers than the general population. If I walk around any town centre (not during lockdown) and take the weight, BMI, cholesterol figures etc. of a hundred people then go to the depot and look at a hundred climbers, I would suspect the climbers average a healthier weight, which would then be reasonable to conclude they eat healthier.

If a greater percentage of the general population have disordered eating (probably eating too much) then it's not fair to say climbing is a problem just because there are a minority that unfortunately have issues.

andy_e

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Kai Lightner's coaching telling him he will never be good because he is too heavy, leading to Kai having a serious eating disorder, is proof that climbing leads to some people having disordered eating.

The issue you're talking about, which is general population health, is a different issue, and I agree with you that people who start doing more exercise, such as indoor bouldering, get healthier, that's no surprise. But the drive for "physical perfection" leads people to have disordered eating, which is unhealthy (albeit in a different way to trends of rising obesity in the general population).

 

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