Manitoba

Fitness competition triggers eating disorder in Winnipeg woman

A Winnipeg woman is speaking out against fitness competitions targeting young girls – saying they can spark unhealthy habits and lead to eating disorders.

Winnipeg woman shares story of battle with anorexia athletica for Eating Disorder Awareness Week

Anorexia athletica is an eating disorder marked by excessive and compulsive exercising. (iStock)

A Winnipeg woman is speaking out against fitness competitions targeting young girls – saying they can spark unhealthy habits and lead to eating disorders.

27-year-old Hannah Rose Pratt spoke publicly about her battle with anorexia athletica with CBC’s Marcy Markusa on Thursday.

“I didn’t know what it was until after I had come through it,” she said. “For me, it meant compulsive exercising coupled with a fear of gaining weight and therefore restricting my eating habits drastically.”

Pratt said it started after she left university volleyball and started training for a fitness competition for the first time.

She trained and dieted excessively, and when the competition was over, she couldn’t stop.

“After the competition, instead of getting back to a normal, balanced way of living, I went into a tailspin where I worked out harder and lost more weight and couldn’t get back out of it,” she said.

Pratt began to notice her hair was thinning, her nails were breaking off and she was agitated and irritable all the time. She even started to grow hair all over her body.

“It was scary … even being invited to social gatherings or going out with friends was terrifying,” she said. “I was afraid of being forced to eat something in front of other people … You turn into someone you don’t recognize. I didn’t recognize myself.”

Pratt said her nutritionist slowly helped her realize the choices she was making weren’t healthy.

She questioned Pratt’s choices in cutting calories and showed her photos of athletes and provided body mass indexes to show her what a healthy body looked like.

“She kind of gently pushed me towards trying to recognize my symptoms,” she said. ““I knew I had an issue. I knew something was wrong … but I was so terrified of, ‘Who would I be now if I didn’t have this?’”

Now, Pratt works in communications and has her weight and fitness under control, but she worries about fitness competitions that target young girls.

“When younger women are being targeted to do these fitness competitions, it’s very concerning for me because they haven’t developed yet, they don’t know who they are,” she said.  “It’s becoming a trend to work out extremely – doing Crossfit [for example.]”

Feb. 1 to 7 marks Eating Disorder Awareness Week in Canada. CBC’s Information Radio is exploring the topic all week.  

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