In the end, she couldn’t skate at all. You can’t train. The young woman has had several top 10 placements both nationally and internationally in recent times.
She points to two possible reasons why eating disorder is prevalent throughout everyday life: role models and pathway profiles.
– The worst thing is that you shouldn’t talk about it, it has been silenced, she says.
The woman doesn’t want to give a name, she just can’t stand the pressure. Also, not many people around her know the extent of her suffering. This is the first time you’ve said it out loud.
We call it “Anja”. Ever since she learned to ski as a little girl, she has dreamed of representing Norway in the national sport of cross-country skiing. I dreamed of the national team, the World Cup and the Olympics.
Several ’80s national team runners showed up in Dagbladet earlier this fall and told how the cross-country environment contributed to the development of eating disorders. But no one has done that before national team runners in this millennium. For now.
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Going back a few years: Anja has already managed to recover. She joined the national team in the rally. Finally she was there. She knew there were people in the house who could kill to get her place. But the feeling of happiness did not last long. The women on the elite team, role models, idols, hardly ate. She was shocked.
– You can see how they look in the elite squad. And what you hear is that they “exercise so much that they can’t eat enough”. But they just sit and store scrambled eggs and eat lettuce leaves only. Then I understand that you can’t get enough of you, she says when you meet Dagbladet in a cafe.
She started thinking ‘what I exercise is not good enough, what I eat at least is not good enough’.
“Maybe I’ll get better if I lose a few kilos,” Anja wondered. The problem was that once you started, it could be hard to stop after a few pounds.
– I thought I would take the last step, weight is important in the best sports. Initially, it was in order to improve performance. Then today, she said, the focus was on appearance.
Cross-country ski stop
She foretold a brilliant career in cross-country skiing.
But it was her eating disorders that made her shelve her competition flip-flops.
– I couldn’t stand it anymore, I couldn’t stand those models. It is said that you should not compare yourself to others, and all credit to those who do not, but you do look at people, she says.
It wasn’t long before Anja lost 10 kilos, became seriously underweight and missed her period. At this point, she’s gone to a World Cup race and the flag is on her chest.
– It began with food, but I became depressed, I became anxious, and there was an insatiable appetite for everything. It was just fun.
She stops, looks down at the table.
– No, there was not much skiing that year, you say, it was almost flat.
Earlier in November Ski head Eric Rosti’s response to VG For questions about your eating disorder status in Norwegian cross-country skiing right now:
– We have to split it into two parts: those who are in the national team system and at the Olympic summit and who present a health certificate to the Norwegian Ski Association (between 400 and 500 athletes this year) are followed in a good way. Then we see from what has been revealed now, at VG and Dagbladet, that the challenges are still significant at the level below, but I have noted that the spotlight on the topic is great throughout the organization and a great willingness to work with him.
It excites the female, former number one runner. Because everything is not in order at the top. Dagbladet spoke to several athletes who said they struggled with weight and food even while on the national team and competing in international races.
I am so provoked when the leaders of the Ski Association think that 400-500 of the best athletes are well looked after. There are skaters today who give up because. Weight problems, says the former cross country skier.
To Dagbladet, ski chief Røste stresses that even if those who provide a health certificate are followed up in a good way, this does not mean that there are no problems at the top – it may be, he says.
Dagbladet asked several leaders in the skating federation about “food picking”, which Marit Björgen also told in his latest autobiography, can create an unhealthy culture and whether team management and the skating association should take it. The Ski Association hasn’t responded to this, but Ski President Eric Rosti previously said this to VG about food harassment:
Knowledge about disordered eating behavior is much better today than before. I test that the management in cross-country skiing is well aware of this.
Flat lanes fool ourselves
Former national team runner Anja describes herself as a self-confident girl who believed cross-country skiing was fun and trusted what she did was right.
– that it can go from there, that it can go smoothly – people deserve to know that. I never thought I would be affected by that. But this achievement and result come before anything else. It doesn’t help telling a 20-year-old that you probably can’t get pregnant in 15 – she doesn’t care.
Why do you think cross-country skiing is prone to eating disorders?
– I think it’s because the role model looks like this. Weight is so important in the best sports that you can’t get away with it. Now the tracks are getting more and more difficult because it will get rid of that share culture. It prefers light athletes with high oxygen uptake, not strong and slightly heavier athletes.
A good glide couldn’t equal the lead that jumped over the slopes.
– If there was more variation on the tracks, so that the stronger athletes could also win, I think it would have helped. This problem will not go away on its own.
She believes that path profiles contribute to role models looking at the way they act.
– Yes I think. They work a bit against cross-country skiing for it being a sport for everyone when they definitely have the toughest trails of all time.
That there is no open talk that weight means anything to cross-country skiing results, Anja believes that contributes to making it a bigger problem.
Weight is important in endurance sports, and I think it’s a good idea to talk about it.
Safe to block
Dagbladet asks Espen Peervig, director of cross-country skiing from the Norwegian Ski Association, for comment on the fact that eating disorders affect top athletes even today.
None of us claimed that this does not happen at the top. What we’ve said is that we have a bigger network and the opportunity to capture and help the athletes who are at the top, says Bjervig. Furthermore, he finds it difficult to comment on such an anonymous story.
He doesn’t want to comment on the fine models across the country and their potential impact.
Such vague and anonymous claims become completely impossible to relate to, says Bjervig.
Dagbladet also asked Bjervig if the track profile contributes to only lightweight athletes being able to assert themselves, and thus influence role models. He didn’t have a chance to answer that, but he did mention earlier that flatter trails don’t solve the weight challenges in cross-country skiing.
We do cardio, and weight is an element of other cardio sports, such as athletics. I don’t think flatter trails are the right precautionary way to go. Espen Bervig says I have more confidence in working with information at the club level and getting the topic on the agenda at all levels.
– Balances about to decline to start
– Health certificate – to be filled out only
Athletes who represent Norway internationally and go to the World Cup race, A health certificate must be submitted as part of the Norwegian Ski Association permit.
– The health certificate is just to fill out, when you know what to answer. The doctor says fill in the height and weight you specify, then the doctor signs the health certificate «Anja».
Helge Andreas Felberg is part of the Ski Federation’s health team, which is responsible for health certifications in cross-country skiing. He says weight and height should be measured at the doctor.
– If the doctor only fills in what the practitioner says, the health certificate will not be carried out correctly. The doctor’s weight and height must be measured clearly on the health certificate form and signed by the doctor that he or she can certify the information provided, Felberg told Dagbladet.
I got help
On the advice of a friend, “Anja” got help from a psychologist. After only three treatments, the vicious cycle was broken. Since then, it has taken a lot of work: I made mind maps to sort out the clutter of emotions. For as long as she could remember, she thought she’d become a skater.
– Your whole life unfolds in front of the island on you. Did not help.
I needed a plan B. Now the study has begun.
– It helped me a lot to see that I mastered something other than skateboarding.
It’s not just about snapping your fingers, you’re free from eating disorders. It takes work and time.
– I hope you get wiser when you get older. It is life threatening due to eating disorders.
And what if she goes back to the World Cup in a cross-country ski circus?
– No, I’m done with that.
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