Jennifer Kirk, a former World Junior Champion skater who has skated at elite levels with some of the most celebrated figure skaters in the country, has come out to discuss the problem of eating disorders in the figure skating world.
In an article that might be triggering for some, Kirk describes her three year battle with an eating disorder, noting that "a lack of control over various aspects of my life manifested itself in what I ate." As she fell deeper into her disorder, Kirk began noticing that other skaters were struggling as well: "Although I tried to ask for help in passive ways–hinting about what I was doing to my body to my friends and family–I soon realized that many of my friends in the sport were facing the exact same struggles themselves."
Kirk, who retired from the sport in 2005 and now claims that her "decision to quit skating was largely due to my desire to crush my eating disorder and regain a healthy, positive attitude towards food and my body," says she is speaking out about the unhealthy behaviors and disordered eating she observed in her peers because, well, nobody else will. While gymnasts, dancers, and wrestlers are often brought up as examples of athletes who develop eating disorders while under extreme pressure to maintain a certain body type, it's rare to hear such stories from skaters, something Kirk says is the result of the sport's lack of openness and willingness to confront the issue. "It makes me angry that there is no one speaking out against what is so common in figure skating," she writes, "Some coaches promote what these skaters are doing to their bodies, and others don't try to stop them."
Whether or not Kirk's willingness to share her story will make a difference in terms of the backstage behaviors of figure skaters is yet to be seen, but her story is certainly a powerful one and raises many questions about how we can encourage our elite athletes to maintain a sense of health and wellness, even in the face of extreme pressures and competition.
Skating's Not-So-Secret Shame [TrueSlant]