Food and diet are an essential part of a runner’s training programme. It’s perfectly normal to try out different foods and eating patterns – do you eat an hour before you run, or two hours? Do you switch from cow’s to soya milk, or increase your carbohydrate intake? – to find out what works best for you.
Many people start running to help control their weight, and soon find that as they get lighter, they are able to run faster or further. The trouble with keeping on trying to lose weight is that the returns – the increase in speed – diminish as your weight falls. Excessively restricting your dietary intake will leave you under-nourished and under-fuelled for your training. Extreme eating patterns – whether it is cutting down on how much you eat to as little as possible, or binge-eating and purging or excessive exercising – will impair your performance, and can damage your health permanently.
Eating disorders are more common among male and female runners than among the average population. Sometimes it affects existing runners; sometimes people with eating disorders take up running specifically to lose more weight.
The long-term effect of under-eating can be devastating – in women it can cause menstrual and fertility problems, and osteoporosis is much more likely in both men and women with eating disorders. It can cause problems with your digestive system, your kidneys and your bowels, and can even be fatal.
If you think that you, or someone you know has an eating disorder, don’t try to cope alone. There are plenty of places to get help, especially through the Eating Disorders Association (EDA). If you want to know more about eating disorders and running, you can download one of our information leaflets – there are a series of three:
If you think you have an eating disorder that is tied up with your running, but don’t feel ready to tell your family or your doctor, you might want to make use of the EDA’s self-help network. The network puts people with eating disorders in touch with former sufferers and carers who can offer support and information. You can ask for email, postal or telephone support; it is all totally confidential. Contact details are below.
The EDA also welcomes volunteers. If you have previously suffered from an eating disorder, or cared for a sufferer, and think that you are now in a position to offer support to someone who is currently going through what you did, you can find out what volunteers do here.
Contacting the EDA
|Do you recognise any of these signs?|
|Becoming an EDA Volunteer|
If you have personal experience of an eating disorder, either as a sufferer or a carer, you will know how vital it can be to have someone to talk to. Volunteers don’t offer counselling or professional advice to sufferers, but provide a contact for runners with eating disorders to talk to about their feelings. If you think that you have the time and commitment to become a volunteer, please read the introductory guidelines, below, and then get in touch with the EDA.
Volunteers should have, or be willing to develop, the following skills:
The EDA asks that:
Ways of Being a Volunteer
Postal and Email Volunteers
To find out more about how to become a volunteer, contact the EDA on 01603 75 33 10 or send an email