From the Mouths of Babes – What Parents of FEMALE Athletes Need to Know

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As a fitness professional for over 25 years and the Training and Conditioning Coach for the WTWoodson Crew Team for the last 6 years, I have put together articles that I think will benefit parents (and coaches) for high school athletes.  Enjoy!!

While coaching this season, I was asked by some of the male coaches to speak with the female crew athletes about weight, food, nutrition, and body image.  Since the girls had already worked with me for the last hour, I didn’t have a problem with this request for a long “story time”.  I asked the girls to raise their hands if they had gained weight over the last 10 weeks of training.  Four of them raised their hand.  I am sure this is a higher number – but only the courageous raise their hand during conditioning practice!!  I then asked these four girls how many of them were freaking out because of this weight gain.  All four of them again raised their hands.  I felt horrible.  I will REMEMBER to START the winter conditioning practice next year with this story time lecture on muscle mass and what to expect!

If you go to my blog:  “Throw Out The Scale…”, you will see the explanation of why these girls were gaining weight.  You could see the relief in their eyes when they heard that scales lie and the fact that they were gaining weight (and losing  inches) was actually a GOOD thing, not a bad thing.  After my lecture on lean mass, dieting, and the scale, I opened the discussion up for questions.  I was struck at the GREAT questions I was asked, and wanted to share them (and the answers) with you:

1.  Why will my weight sometimes fluctuate up to 5 pounds from day to day?  If you are going to weigh yourself, weighing at the same time of day is important.  We weigh less in the mornings and more in the evenings.  This fluctuation can also be due to water retention (what did you eat the day or night before?), and it can also be hormonal (especially around your period).

2.  What if I’m not hungry most of the day?  Here is a tricky one!  The only reason why someone isn’t hungry most of the day (and doesn’t eat until late afternoon) is because they have trained themselves to do so.  This is a RED flag that something emotional is going on.  Eating every 2 – 4 hours is ESSENTIAL!!  Especially for an athlete!  Time to look at images and beliefs around body image and food.  This can be a sign that an eating disorder is happening or right around the corner!

3.  What if I hate eating in the morning?  GREAT question!  I hate eating in the morning!  I make myself eat something within 30 minutes to an hour of waking up.  Think of food as fuel — and your body needs fuel after sleeping for 8 hours.  A protein shake made in a blender with fresh fruit, some yogurt, and milk is a delicious and easy way to start the day.  Other ideas:  An egg sandwich, a protein bar (not high on my list to start the day, however), a piece of toast with peanut butter – something small but substantial.

4.  What is the difference between dieting and eating healthy?  Dieting means that you are consciously reducing your caloric intake.  Eating healthy means that you are making healthy choices and not worrying so much about the calories you are consuming.  Want to see my ideas about healthy eating?  Go to my blog:  Throw out the scale…

5.  If I lose weight, will my breasts get smaller?  Yes, they will.  Not significantly, however.  So, no worries ladies!

6.  Do I need a multi-vitamin?  If you are in a strenuous conditioning program, it won’t hurt you!  If you are not eating a healthy diet, certainly take those vitamins!  If you are a vegan and don’t eat tofu or meat replacements, certainly be taking a daily multi-vitamin.  Be sure to get your vitamins from a nutritionist or health food store (versus the grocery store or GNC). 

7.  What time at night should I stop eating?  There are two schools of thought here – and all people are unique – so do what works best for you!  One school of thought is that it is not about when you eat, but about the amount of calories you consume (and where the calories come from) that matters.  The other school believes that as long as you are eating small, balanced meals every 2-4 hours, you can eat up until 10pm (which is when I go to bed).  I have lived both ways – but have had the most success with the latter.  And, since our athletes don’t get home until 7pm and still need to eat dinner, I would recommend they have another snack (healthy) before they go to bed at night.

I wanted to check out “my” girls images around food – I had them finish this sentence:  “Food is _____.”  I heard all the appropriate answers:  yummy, good for you, nutritious, delicious, etc.  Then I said:  “Ok guys.  I can’t be the only one here who struggles with food and body image – what aren’t you telling me…”  That is when I heard:  Food is inflating, medicine, fattening, something I have to do…  I told the girls that I had to change my image around food because my main belief (and struggle) was:  “Food  makes you fat”.  This came from years as a dancer and being anorexic.  Many of my female athletes have watched me pay the price for my anorexia when I was young.  They have seen my struggle with weight and food.  They know that I eat every 3 hours – a healthy, balanced diet of meat, vegetables, and fruits.  And because I am eating every 3hours, they watch me eat a “meal” during each practice. 

So, what do YOUR babes have to say?  What are their questions?  What are your daughter’s struggles with her body image – her weight – her frame?  How can you help her turn them around?  What questions does your daughter have about food and nutrition that you can answer – or find a nutritionist or trainer to answer?  And, please remember that it starts with you.  Look closely at YOUR beliefs around food and body image too.

Love to you