U.S. ice dancer Tanith Belbin looks a bit different than the competitor we saw four years ago at the 2006 Olympics in Turin. She looks a bit curvier and wholesome. What happened? She gained ten pounds. And she is now sharing her own private struggle with eating.
She was apparently feeling incredibly challenged to keep her weight in check while in preparation for the 2006 Olympics, so she dieted and literally "ate nothing" and still did not lose weight. That's amazing, considering her daily workouts and the amount of calories an athlete of her caliber typically burns. But the reality is that your metabolism will often balk at extreme dieting and your body's response will be to try and defy your low calorie consumption. For an Olympic contender that can also mean fatigue, mood swings, stress, and emotions that can defy your physical efforts and drain your competitive energies.
Lucky for Belbin she brought in some new coaches in 2008 and the first suggestion was for Belbin to actually gain weight. She was very resistant at first but finally agreed to change her eating patterns and food choices. The net result was muscular weight gain, which is now credited with allowing her to have better skating lifts and superior energy levels. Her partner credits the new muscularity with making his job to lift her easier. She now has the strength to assist significantly in the lift and hold part of their skating program. Though they ultimately placed fourth in this year's Olympics, their routine was dazzling and exhibited her incredible strength and endurance.
The lesson to all of us is that anyone who wants to be healthy and physically active has to eat the right foods in the right amounts to fuel their physical efforts. And muscle mass is the right kind of weight to gain when you are trying to achieve a healthier stronger physique. If you feel that you need help with a diet gone awry, consider a consultation with a trainer and dietician or nutritionist. Remember even one meeting with a professional can help give you good information and the education you may need.