Whitney Post, MA is an amazing woman. An Olympic rower, who describes herself as “chasing victory” in a highly competitive sport, she has conquered something perhaps more challenging: her own eating disorder. Since entering recovery, Whitney has instrumental in helping others to recover from anorexia, bulimia and binge eating. Whitney is now taking on a new challenge, supporting college students with eating disorders. Whitney recently shared her story with knotmove.com.
Examiner: Could you tell us a little bit about you and especially your interest in eating disorders?
Whitney: Well I come to my interest in the topic from personal and professional experience. I developed an eating disorder myself in college – where I was in love with the sport of rowing. I went on to row for the lightweight National Team for four years, and then went as an alternate to the Sydney Olympics in 2000. I subsequently earned a degree in psychology, and worked as an eating disorder therapist, and as a consultant I’ve given trainings on eating disorder prevention and wellness to college sports teams and coaches. I’m fascinated by the way something as positive as athletics can contribute to something as destructive as eating disorders, as well as the way the athletic personality can be leveraged towards recovery. I write about this in a blog for gurze.com
Why are athletes so susceptible to developing eating disorders?
How much time do you have? The short answer is that the profile of a good athlete in many ways mirrors the traits needed to have an eating disorder; ability to be incredibly disciplined, training in pushing through pain and discomfort, strong motivation for achievement, strong identity linked to the body. In eating disorders the body becomes the solution to whatever problems are at hand. They get played out in the body by starving or binging or purging or some combination of all of the above.
Do you see any gender differences among athletes in terms of eating disorders?
While eating disorders have mainly impacted women over the past few decades, they are affecting more and more men. Research has shown that athletes in weight restricted sports or sports where appearance plays a role in performance are at particularly risk, as well as sports the emphasize individual over team performance.
What are some changes to traditional treatment for eating disorders that would be beneficial for athletes?
I think the most important aspect is to be in pursuit of treatment. Many athletes are often resistant to treatment. I’ve talked to plenty of clinicians on college campuses who say how hard it is to get athletes to show up for groups or sessions to address eating disorders. It can be threatening to their identity and sport. I know when I was rowing in college I was horrified that what I was doing might be viewed as letting my teammates down. While I did seek treatment I was scared that someone from my team might find out what I was struggling with. I do think that therapeutic modalities such as Cognitive Behavior Therapy can be a nice fit for athletes because the approach addresses specific skill development and is goal oriented. And while it may take some effort – taking the time to find a therapist who has experience working with athletes is a great way to go.
What can you tell us about your latest endeavor, The Eating for Life Alliance?
My colleague and Co-founder, Dawn Hynes, and I are pleased that at long last (18 months of working and networking) the eatingforlife.org website will be live as of September. This is an endeavor very near and dear to my heart: a website to provide resources on the treatment and prevention of eating disorders to colleges (students, parents, and college staff). There is amazing work being done across the country in eating disorder treatment and prevention. Our vision is to connect colleges to that information, and to provide help in terms of a user friendly website (www.eatingforlife.org).
Philadelphia eating disorder programs