Diet culture in figure skating – my experience

on the photo a picture from my last competition where I landed triple jumps and skated a clean program by weighing 53kg and just eating healthy and giving my body what it needs.

Is blogging now a habit?💻

Hello everyone! Gosh I’m feeling so good today! Proper spring has finally arrived. Sunny long days and mildly warm weather. I’m immediately feeling inspired and have so much I want to blog about! And I’m so happy that I’ve been able to keep this up without leaving too long of a break. Hoping this is an actual habit now! Anyway being as inspired as I am, I’m back with another topic that I feel like needs to be spoken about. To set the mood right, let me just say I’m currently having a pancake with almond butter, chia seeds and raspberry jam and it tastes ama-a-a-a-a-zing. You have to try!

Let’s get right into it

I hate reading blogs or watching vlogs, where people spend forever to get to the point, just to keep you on their profile a little longer. I’m not gonna be like this. I’m gonna go straight into it. So diet culture. I touched on it a little in my previous blog post, but there’s so much more I’d like to say. First of all, the diet culture in figure skating is messed up and I don’t really see an easy fix for it. I think it goes back decades and it will go on decades, because us people are just so easily influenced and we all love to get quick results. And sport generally is so results driven that us athletes tend to do whatever to get to our goal. And well a big part of figure skating is the fact that the sport and succeeding at it, is easier for a light person. It’s pure physics. But in this case, I have to point out that light, doesn’t mean weak and light can mean very different things for different people. I mean we’ve all been there, when we lose a few pounds and feel lighter immediately. That’s what I’m basically talking about as a broad picture. For high level sports in figure skating it’s slightly different. You really have to be a light person to be able to perform triple and quad jumps and you have to be strong at the same time. I remember back in my competing days I kept hearing – lose weight, gain muscle – you kidding me? Try doing that when your fat percentage is already at around 16. Not easy.

Where did it go wrong?

As mentioned earlier I believe it started decades ago, when figure skaters started pushing the sport to a higher level. More difficult tricks, meant a more specific physique. I’m assuming that the countries that were kind of leading the sport to progress soon realised that the lighter skaters were, the easier things were to execute. But no rush. We are still in the era, where we had strong skaters. We haven’t gotten to tiny-petite yet. I’m speaking Surya Bonali, Katarina Witt, Tonya harding type of skaters. So much power, huge extremely huge jumps and just fascinating to watch. Ok, now we can fast forward a bit – Michelle Kwan, Tara Lipinski era. We’re already seeing smaller skaters, because now the difficulty of skating really gives an advantage to petite skaters. And so it is today the same way. So my opinion is that the main factor to the petite world of figure skating is the fact, that it’s so damn difficult to execute the elements if you’re ‘too big’.
But I don’t think this is the reason the diet culture is so messed up. I truly believe it’s messed up because of the improper education and science behind food and health we have endured in the last decades. I think we can all mutually agree that up until a few years ago skinny/underweight=healthy in figure skating. At least this is the experience I had. I was never a big skater. After my growth spurt (I grew to my final height 165cm at age of 16) most I weighed was 58kg. Looking back I remember hearing from my coaches that I’m an elephant, a whale, embarrassing to watch etc. And obviously thinking to myself as well that this is terrible. Now I understand that firstly weight is just a number and 58kg doesn’t constitute to being OVERWEIGHT.

What do I mean by improper education on food and health?

What I mean is that only in the recent years skaters, coaches and teams have started to pay more attention into nutrition. I remember being a teenager and hearing my coach say: “just eat healthy!”😤 . Ok, well I was, but nothing was happening. I felt like I was just gaining weight. And to that I would hear: “you’re not eating healthy enough or you’re eating too much.” Never in my entire career I had anyone say:”it’s crazy how our hormones and body changes when we become a women right?” And that’s the key factor in this. And it doesn’t only affect women, I believe this goes for both men and women, because we both experience ‘becoming an adult’ during our careers and let me tell you it sucks. I hated having my body change so much, it was ruining everything for me and hearing people around me say how fat I was, just made the whole experience worse. And if you’re wondering why I think there isn’t enough educating around this topic..well because I’m a certified skating coach. And to become a certified skating coach, I did not have to answer one single question about nutrition, mental health or skaters physique.

You can become a skating coach without knowing anything about nutrition

Isn’t that crazy? I find it absolutely ludicrous. A coach is someone who skaters spend so much time with and they have so much authority over us and we have to trust our coach. So if they say “don’t eat” or “eat less” or “eat these pills” or “vomit out your food” (like it was in my case) it’s really easy to go down that road and develop an eating disorder. I think it’s crucial that all people who want to guide someone in skating, must have basic knowledge on skaters health and not just their ‘own experience’. For reference after completing my certification for skating coach I also did an online course on nutrition and a course on eating disorders, so that I could navigate the skating world better. I don’t know many coaches who have done that. And it’s not their fault. Coaches are extremely busy with coaching. It’s amazing, if they go out of their way to educate themselves, but I believe this is the work of the federation to provide proper information to their skaters and coaches. But let’s not forget, it’s also the parents job to monitor their child and provide them with the best nutrition! And lastly – why? Realise your why, so you know why you’re doing it all. Doing things for the right reasons, give the results we’re after. Doing wrong things for the wrong reasons, might give you a temporary result, but will always boomerang back at you. There’s plenty of examples from our sport.

Will things get better?

Of course! That’s the best part. Things can only get better on this topic. Today there’s so much more information out in the world, that we can just learn for free. There’s also a lot of false information, but the main thing is, everything is much more accessible. Another thing is that way more people are speaking up about this and figure skating as a sport is changing.
It’s much more accessible to skaters who love it for what it is and they don’t feel the need to go to the Olympics, because life is just as good without that. There’s so much more low(but wonderful)-level skating and skaters and I can see that they do this sport for completely different reasons. For those who want to go for high level, I recommend educating themselves on proper nutrition, getting their blood work done, to see if they have all proper vitamins to train at a high level and just exhale. Your body is your temple and you must love it, in order to teach it all the things you want to learn. If you start hating on your body for it not being the shape you want, you’ll never get there. Us as skaters and coaches we must praise healthy bodies. And I’ve competed at a high level with a healing healthy body and I know it’s possible. There are things I could’ve done better, but more on that next time!

“I truly believe skating is for everyone and everyBODY and that each one of us deserves to have an amazing experience with this sport!”

See you soon ❤️