But many skaters are extra reticent. In latest interviews with almost a dozen male skaters from the United States, Germany, Russia and Canada, every mentioned he knew opponents who had battled bulimia, the binge-purge syndrome. But nobody volunteered any private particulars.
Ron A. Thompson, a consulting psychologist for the Indiana University athletic division, mentioned there was a cultural part to male skaters’ reserve about discussing their physique picture issues.
“Males are imagined to be stronger and never want psychological help,” he wrote in an e-mail. But he mentioned that consuming problems and disordered consuming “are usually not discriminatory, they happen in each genders in all sports activities.”
According to 2011 statistics cited by the National Eating Disorders Association, 20 million American ladies and 10 million males will in some unspecified time in the future wrestle with a clinically vital consuming dysfunction.
Jeremy Abbott, 32, a two-time Olympian who retired final yr, strives for a wholesome life-style, however he mentioned that even now, “in all honesty, my physique picture might be very low. I’m not in unhealthy bodily situation. I’ve the idea of that. But I nonetheless sort of look within the mirror and nitpick every part.”
Kelly Rippon, Adam’s mom, remembers when his first coach, a girl, knowledgeable her that her son, then 10, would by no means be capable to execute superior jumps due to his “heavy backside.” The coach recommended that Rippon be steered towards speedskating.
The coach’s critique didn’t sit nicely with Kelly Rippon, a former dancer who remembers subsisting on sandwiches that consisted of two lettuce leaves wrapped round a tomato slice. She started to alter her consuming habits, she mentioned, after the singer Karen Carpenter died from problems of anorexia in 1983.
After noticing that her son, in his teenagers, had adopted a food regimen of water-based greens, Kelly Rippon sat him down and defined why it was essential that he combine in some protein.
“My mother understands as a result of my mother went by means of the identical factor,” mentioned Rippon, who ate usually for a number of years and even bulked up by means of weight coaching.
Then he moved to Southern California within the fall of 2012 to coach with Rafael Arutyunyan, a product of the Soviet Union’s teaching system. Arutyunyan took one take a look at Rippon’s muscle tissue and despatched him straight to an elliptical machine to start out shedding kilos.
Rippon additionally adopted his draconian food regimen. “I’d do a couple of days having my three items of bread after which end the entire loaf of bread and have three,000 energy,” he mentioned, including that he would inform his coach: “‘Rafael, that is what I’m consuming.’ And he mentioned, ‘I do know. It’s actually onerous.’”
Arutyunyan mentioned he had since realized to deal with his skaters’ weight with a brand new vocabulary, in his nonnative English, and realized that he couldn’t be as blunt as when he labored within the Soviet system and thought nothing of calling an athlete “fats.” In the United States, he mentioned, he has attended seminars that drove dwelling the purpose that “it’s sort of abusive or possibly they’ll get sick.”
So now Arutyunyan will inform his skaters that they give the impression of being sluggish or that they must be in higher form. “But principally,” he mentioned, “similar time I’m pondering, ‘O.Okay., how I could make elephant to fly?’”
Last yr, shortly earlier than nationals, Rippon broke his left foot whereas hopping to heat up his legs. During his monthslong restoration, he determined to deal with his food regimen as a result of he suspected unhealthy consuming had contributed to his harm.
“I believe I had a stress fracture earlier than I broke my foot,” Rippon mentioned, “and I believe that was completely as a result of I used to be not getting sufficient vitamins.”
He began working with Susie Parker-Simmons, a sports activities dietitian with the United States Olympic Committee, and as he grew extra aware about consuming, Rippon mentioned, a fog of fatigue over him lifted.
“I didn’t understand I used to be so drained on a regular basis,” he mentioned.
Parker-Simmons’s purpose was for Rippon to see meals as gasoline, not a foe. She promotes wholesome relationships with meals by encouraging athletes to plant seeds and eat what they develop. She may even play to their aggressive natures by holding contests to see who can create probably the most scrumptious meals utilizing nutrient-rich components.
Body composition evaluation is one other a part of the equation for Parker-Simmons, who educates the athletes on how you can get probably the most out of their genetics, which in Rippon’s case contains his muscular thighs and buttocks.
“These athletes are so disciplined,” Parker-Simmons mentioned, “and meals is without doubt one of the issues they’ll really management after they can’t management different elements of their lives.”
The day after Rippon was named to the Olympic staff in San Jose, Calif., he went to a restaurant and tucked right into a lunch of leafy greens tossed in Caesar dressing and topped with items of seared ahi tuna.
“I don’t really feel any guilt consuming this,” Rippon mentioned between bites. “But there is part of me that’s pondering, ‘How good. I’m treating myself to creamy dressing.’”