By Caroline Roberts, EDC Intern
Congratulations on making it to this level in your athletic career! Congratulations on all
your hard work paying off to get you to this moment. Congratulations on being part of that
(approximately) 7% of high school athletes that move on to play at the college level.
Congratulations, you deserve to take pride in this accomplishment. However, with this
experience, please be sure to reflect and stay informed about the less glamorous territory that
may come with being a collegiate athlete.
I know putting in hours of additional work after your mandated practice time may seem
like the secret to success at this level, however it is not. I know only eating “clean” foods in
order to “stay lean” may seem like the secret to success at this level, however it is not.
Restricting caloric intake in order to lose weight so that you “move faster” may sound like a
productive approach, however it is not. At times during your sport, it may seem appropriate to
base your worth on your success on the field, court, track, etc., however it is not. The secret to
being a successful college athlete is finding a healthy balance.
When you enter the collegiate level of any sport, the expectations of your coaches,
teammates, and even family members seem to be much higher than they were at any point in
your athletic career prior. It’s very easy to want to exceed all these expectations by utilizing
whatever your version of “the secret to success” is, yet this distorted approach can oftentimes
create an unhealthy mindset that can lead to anxiety, depression, and/or eating disorders.
So how do you find a healthy balance for both your mental and physical health? Well
first, you must reflect. It can be difficult to acknowledge or even realize that your behavior
could be potentially harmful to your health, but there are many signs that your body and brain display
that can be clear indicators.
1. Your body is in constant pain or you constantly obtain overuse injuries
While it is normal to play through some minor aches and soreness, if your body is constantly
hurting this could be a red flag. As an athlete it is crucial to take care of your body so that you
cannot only thrive as an athlete but as an individual as well. Injured athletes are impacted far
beyond the quality of their physical state. Being injured greatly increases an athletes’ risk of
developing anxiety and depression due to not being able to perform in their sport. So, listen to
the aches of your body in order to protect both your physical and mental health!
2. You feel extremely fatigued all the time
Feeling tired is different from feeling fatigued. If you are taking proper care of yourself, i.e.,
getting sufficient rest and nutrients, it is likely that you may still feel tired due to the amount of
physical activity that athletics demand, but you should not feel fatigued. You may feel tired from
an early morning lift, or a late-night training session, however fatigue is feeling constantly tired
and weak. Fatigue can be a symptom of anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. If you notice
you are feeling this way, reflect on your moods and eating habits, and if
necessary, reach out to a family member, friend, or doctor for support!
3. Your weight fluctuates greatly in the downward direction in a short duration of time
Weight fluctuation is normal, especially as an athlete. This fluctuation can oftentimes be due to
loss of water weight through sweating, or a gain in weight due to gaining muscle. However, if
you are noticing that your weight is trending down at a rapid rate, it may be time to reflect on your
eating habits! With the increased exercise load that athletes endure, it is crucial to properly fuel
The notion that “if you are thinner or leaner you will perform better” is FALSE. This is a
common misconception for athletes that leads to unhealthy disordered eating. Thinking with this
mentality, combined with other overwhelming anxieties that may come with playing sports, can
lead to disorders such as orthorexia nervosa or anorexia nervosa. If you notice that you
are struggling mentally and physically with your relationship to food, reach out to a loved one or
doctor for support! And remember, your weight has nothing to do with your performance, as
long as that weight is appropriate for your body!
4. You no longer enjoy something you once loved
This may be the biggest indicator your behaviors surrounding your athletic career are at an
imbalance. This is the game you are supposed to love, so if you find yourself no longer excited to
play your sport, then you may be experiencing burnout. This is a condition in which athletes no
longer enjoy their sport, often feeling fatigued and showing a decline in their performance. While
burnout can occur just from a college athletes’ busy schedule, the severity of it is often amplified
by overtraining or the toxic misconceptions surrounding “the ideal athlete”. This condition tends
to lead to anxiety and/or depression. If you find yourself feeling this way, don’t panic!
Sometimes the solution is just a break or some time away from your sport. Another solution may
be reaching out to your schools’ Sports Psychologist.
College is supposed to be fun! Playing your sport is supposed to be fun! Creating a healthy
balance to ensure optimal mental and physical health, will help you not only find success in
those endeavors, but also allow you to have fun while doing so. So remember to reflect on your
behaviors, and listen to your body if you experience constant injury, fatigue, or burnout!
These signs should not be dismissed as normal occurrences, but rather
reminders to take care of yourself.
Schedule a free 15 min consult for eating disorder therapy in MD, VA, DC, NY, FL, or recovery coaching worldwide.
The Eating Disorder Center is a premier outpatient eating disorder therapy center founded by Jennifer Rollin. We specialize in helping teens and adults struggling with anorexia, binge eating disorder, bulimia, OSFED, and body image issues. We provide eating disorder therapy in Rockville, MD, easily accessible to individuals in Potomac, North Potomac, Bethesda, Olney, Silver Spring, Germantown, and Washington D.C. We also provide eating disorder therapy in Arlington, Virginia and virtually throughout Virginia. Additionally, we offer eating disorder therapy virtually in New York (NYC), Florida, and California. We provide eating disorder recovery coaching via Zoom to people worldwide. Connect with us through our website at www.theeatingdisordercenter.com
The Eating Disorder Center
We are a premier outpatient eating disorder therapy center in Rockville, Maryland.