By Keely Flanagan
David Proctor ran a mile under four minutes. He was the first Boston University runner to accomplish the feat. Proctor also suffered from anorexia.
Proctor was recruited by Boston University to join the track and field team, and enrolled in 2004. He fell victim to the “Freshman 15,” and his coach suggested he shed a few pounds.
What started off as just diet and exercise turned to disordered eating, and spiraled into anorexia.
He began to lose weight. He began to see results on the track.
He had rules. He couldn’t eat until after 6 p.m., and even then, he limited himself to a yogurt. He obsessively counted calories. Thinner meant faster times on the track.
But then, after “enjoying Christmas, which meant slipping from his disordered eating habits, Proctor didn’t eat for three days. That’s when he went to see a nutritionist. It took a few months but Proctor finally “had a moment of clarity” and realized the problem was more than just staying in running shape.
After working through his eating disorder, and working with Boston University coaches and a nutritionist (Proctor said the university was incredibly supportive), he was able to run a 3:59.14 mile his junior year.
Now, Proctor is back in the U.K., still training and still running. And he said he wouldn’t change anything. He added that his eating disorder and his recovery have shaped who he is today.
Eating Disorders and Gender
According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), only 10 percent of males who suffer from a clinical eating disorder will seek help. Paula Quatromoni, an associate professor of nutrition and epidemiology, said “there is a stigma” attached to men and eating disorders.
The numbers of men suffering from eating disorders are disproportionally higher in the gay community. While homosexual males represent roughly 3-5 percent of the population, the rate of eating disorders among that population is twice as great.
NEDA held an eating disorder awareness week in February. The theme of this year’s event was “I Had No Idea,” with the focus on “recognizing the diverse experiences of people personally affected by disordered eating,” according to NEDA.
Disordered Eating and Combat Sports
Athletes in combat sports must make weight before qualifying to compete in a match. Consequently, “cutting weight” is a common practice. As a consequence of working out and ultimately building muscle before a match, and eventually needing to meet the weight requirements before a match, athletes engage in activities in order to achieve rapid-weight loss.
Some of the unhealthy ways to cut weight:
- Calorie counting
- Extreme diet (only eating rice cakes for weeks before a match)
- Running while dehydrated
- Working out in a plastic suit (again, no water)
However, worldwide attention to the dangers of cutting weight was brought to light in 1997, when three collegiate wrestlers died attempting to cut weight before matches within 33 days of each other. Campbell University freshman Billy Saylor suffered cardiac arrest while riding a stationary bike. He refused to drink liquids in order to lose six pounds before a match. A Wisconsin college senior Joseph LaRose died two weeks later while attempting to rapidly lose four and a half pounds by wearing a rubber suit while on a stationary bike. Jeff Reese, a junior at Michigan, died of both kidney failure and heart malfunction while exercising in a room heated over 90 degrees.
The NCAA has since implemented regulations to try and dissuade wrestlers from engaging in dangerous methods to achieve rapid weight loss.
The new regulations include the 1.5 Percent Per Week Rule, which states “The 1.5 percent per week rule states that you should lose not more than 1.5 percent of your body weight a week. So, a 165-pound student-athlete trying to make a 157-pound weight class should lose not more than two pounds (1.2 percent) per week. This rule is in place to minimize the degree of dehydration that results from losing too much body water. Dehydration of even 1 percent of your body weight decreases your body’s ability to cool itself, endurance and physical performance.”
However, the American College of Sports Medicine reports rapid-weight loss practices are not being curbed. “On a weekly basis, rapid weight loss in high school and collegiate wrestlers has been shown to average 4-5 lbs. and may exceed 6-7 lbs. among 20 percent of the wrestlers,” according to the group. “One-third of high school and collegiate wrestlers have been reported repeating this practice more than 10 times in a season. These practices have been documented over the past 25 years, and during that time, there appears to be little change in their prevalence.”