Running on Empty-
Everyone knows a female who participates in sport; if not you, a daughter, sister or friend. She started out competing for love and fun of the game. But slowly that changed. She began to feel the pressure to succeed. She steps up to the line, into the blocks, onto the mat comparing herself, thinking, if only she lost those 2, 5, or 10+lbs she could achieve her goals, look more like the competitors around her. Fit the mold of an elite. This narrative manifests itself in far too many female athletes. One where body image and weight are harshly linked to one's potential for success rather than their actual talent, fitness, or strength.
Along with this ideology comes a multitude of mental and health problems such as disordered eating, premature bone loss, and nearly 70% of female athletes have experienced some form of athletic amenorrhea or period loss. The concept of the Female Athlete Triad explains these harmful effects to include the following: Eating disorders, which include fasting, exclusion of certain foods or food groups, use of diet aids or laxatives, bulimia and anorexia. Irregular menstruation, including the absence of a period, called amenorrhea, or the delayed onset of menstruation. Premature bone loss, a phenomenon that may lead to stress fractures and the early onset of osteoporosis.
What needs to happen is a change in the culture of female sport, because a culture like this creates physical damage and lasting mental health issues. But change only happens if we speak out. The conversation needs to be opened up in female athletics, it is imperative to let those who are struggling under the pressure of performance and perfection know that they are not alone. Now is the time for female athletes to adapt to a healthier mindset, acknowledging that those standards are not what should be held in esteem but rather be empowered by what their bodies have allowed them to achieve and truly celebrate their femininity.