Adam Rippon breaks the silence surrounding disordered eating in men’s figure skating



Source: Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY Sports

U.S. Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon might look like any other male figure skater to the untrained eye, but those more familiar with the sport might notice the differences in his body: taller, more muscular, more powerful thighs, and more prominent body features. Rippon himself certainly noticed the difference.

“I looked around and saw my competitors, they’re all doing these quads, and at the same time they’re a head shorter than me, they’re 10 years younger than me and they’re the size of one of my legs,” Rippon told The New York Times.

These days he recognizes this is what makes him stand out and contributed to taking home a bronze medal in figure skating team competition. Not too long ago, though, he lived with a much more fraught relationship with food and the constant desire to be smaller.

The 28-year-old Olympian grew up idolizing figure skaters like Nathan Chen and Vincent Zhou, whose light frames helped them accomplish quadruple jumps and other difficult skating moves.

Rippon constantly strived to develop a similar build by living on almost nothing. By 2016, he said he was only eating three slices of whole grain bread with sparing dabs of margarine every day. In between these “meals” he allowed himself to consume three cups of coffee with six packs of Splenda. By any measure, Rippon was starving himself to death.

It wasn’t until Rippon broke one of his legs last year during a warm-up, that Rippon began to realize how much harm his diet was doing.

“I think I had a stress fracture before I broke my foot and I think that was absolutely because I was not getting enough nutrients,” he said.

While hearing Rippon’s daily diet probably shocks the average person, it appears to be par for the course within the world of skating. The extreme diets and constant workouts of female skaters have been well-documented, and several female skaters have recently begun to publicly discuss how this often leads to eating disorders.

Male figure skaters, on the other hand, have been coyly hinting at the widespread nature of eating disorders in skating for decades without ever actually addressing the issue. Rippon would be one of the first men in the sport to speak so frankly about his body image, diet, and how it affected him.

Unfortunately, the intensely competitive world of Olympic figure skating has a long, intertwined history with disordered eating and extreme diets. It could be years, or even decades, before we can significantly detach the need to be the most agile, flexible, and stylish person on the ice from the desire to also be the thinnest.

Read the entire article from The New York Times here.

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