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HELP: Recovering from Eating Disorder - Bouldering Diet


Original Post
Diane Rogers · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2019 · Points: 0

Female. 23 years old. 5'2" 100lbs. I am currently battling an eating disorder, but indoor bouldering has inspired me to pursue a healthy diet. I am still very much a novice climber, but I know I won't get better until my diet improves! Right now I climb every other day for about 1 hour in a gym, but I am looking to start doing once a day. Eventually, by summer, I would like to climb outdoors as well.

Looking for a suggestions on what to eat, like a daily meal plan (breakfast, lunch, post workout meal, and/or dinner).

I already have a very low body fat percentage (due to my disorder), and I would like to work on building muscle.

I am unsure of how many calories I should be eating a day. Ideally, I would like just 3 meals a day with 1 post work out meal (I'm not a huge snacker). I am also a clean eater, so I don't use anything other than salt and pepper haha. So a "boring" diet is perfect for me, if that makes it easier! As of right now, I eat about 2 meals a day, but they are incredibly unbalanced. Which is why I am seeking help.

Thanks in advance. And please no harsh judgement, I'm trying to get better and I think fixing my diet is the first step.

Dylan B. · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2006 · Points: 521

I don’t know anything about diet, but your plan to boulder every day concerns me. Lots of new climbers get super psyched and push to hard. Bouldering in particular seems to lead to lots of sprains and tendon pulls that can derail a climber for months. I’d encourage you to moderate, take at least 3 rest days a week, and do other activities those days.

Of course, I’m old, fat and out of shape. So mine might not be the best advice.

Detrick Snyder · · Michigan, for now · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 140

Diane, thanks for having the courage to post up to a public forum! As you probably noticed already, there are people in the climbing community who are authentically out to help you, and then there are others who have their own disordered way of approaching climbing.  You may want to try searching for facebook groups, I'm certain there is support out there for athletic people recovering from disordered eating. I'll say that calorie counting can have a negative impact in the long run (though, nutritionists differ on this point), so I would recommend just eating until satisfied with each meal.  If you're comfortable doing so, can you tell use what your current diet looks like?  Feel free to PM me.

In any case, I'll look into resources for you from my colleagues who are experts in this area. Best of luck!

FrankPS · · Atascadero, CA · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 275

Sounds like you need to consult with a nutritionist or a doctor, not random people off the Internet.

Diane Rogers · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2019 · Points: 0

Hi, I was expecting this type of reaction so it's no worries haha.

Just for background, my every other day climb is not incredibly difficult, I don't think I'm stressing any of my tendons or ligaments to that extent. No fingerboards or excessive hanging/pulling or full crimping like you hardcore guys lol. I'm not at that level yet. As of right now, my legs are getting the brunt of my workout and that's where I want the gains haha.

And yes, I'm currently looking into a nutritionist/dietician. Just thought I'd hit up you guys in the meantime while I get set up :)

@Detrick I will send you a message once I'm out of work!

JohnnyG · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 10

I just want to send out encouragement to a new climber. I have no advice for you on nutrition and eating disorders.

Climbing is an awesome way to inspire a healthy lifestyle, meet fun people, and see the world. Welcome to club!

It can cure what ails you

Lena chita · · OH · Joined Mar 2011 · Points: 1,030

Climbing every other day is a good plan. It would be better to lengthen your bouldering sessions to 2-3 hours, and try harder/push yourself when you are bouldering (after a good warmup!), but then have a day to recover.

You can occasionally do two-three days in a row, if you are not climbing hard, or not doing a lot of volume each day, but in the long term goal of improving, you are better off trying hard when you are climbing, and then giving your body time to rest and recover. 
As far as diet, hopefully you are working with a dietitian, since you are recovering from an eating disorder. The obvious thing, of course, is that you need to get adequate calories to let your body recover well from workouts, and to build muscles. And you want those calories to come from quality foods, and not junk. (Veggies, lean meats, fish, whole grains,  etc. you have heard it all before, I’m sure)

For most healthy people who are at a normal weight, eating a varied diet, just starting to climb, and climbing lightly in a gym for 1 hr three times a week there is no need to change anything about their diet. In your case, you may need someone to take a detailed look at what you eat, to make sure you are getting enough protein, etc. 

Brent Apgar · · Out of the Loop · Joined Oct 2007 · Points: 70
Diane Rogers wrote:Looking for a suggestions on what to eat, like a daily meal plan (breakfast, lunch, post workout meal, and/or dinner).

I think fixing my diet is the first step.

Disordered eating is a psychological/behavior issue not a dietary one. Counseling or some other plan to create behavior modification that addresses the cause of the problem is better than addressing the symptoms of dietary choice.

Tradiban · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2004 · Points: 11,460
Diane Rogers wrote: Female. 23 years old. 5'2" 100lbs. I am currently battling an eating disorder, but indoor bouldering has inspired me to pursue a healthy diet. I am still very much a novice climber, but I know I won't get better until my diet improves! Right now I climb every other day for about 1 hour in a gym, but I am looking to start doing once a day. Eventually, by summer, I would like to climb outdoors as well.

Looking for a suggestions on what to eat, like a daily meal plan (breakfast, lunch, post workout meal, and/or dinner).

I already have a very low body fat percentage (due to my disorder), and I would like to work on building muscle.

I am unsure of how many calories I should be eating a day. Ideally, I would like just 3 meals a day with 1 post work out meal (I'm not a huge snacker). I am also a clean eater, so I don't use anything other than salt and pepper haha. So a "boring" diet is perfect for me, if that makes it easier! As of right now, I eat about 2 meals a day, but they are incredibly unbalanced. Which is why I am seeking help.

Thanks in advance. And please no harsh judgement, I'm trying to get better and I think fixing my diet is the first step.

Don't climb everyday or tendonitis will come your way.

A diet is a very subjective thing. Find out what you like and build off that. If you don't enjoy what you are eating you will never stick to it. Of course anything you eat should be "healthy". If you don't know if something is good for you, google it for a myraid of opinions.

My personal opinion is that you should go the protein smoothy route for after workout.

Godspeed.
Cocoapuffs 1000 · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jun 2008 · Points: 10

Everyone is different in terms of dietary needs (to climb well), rate of strength progression, and injury risk.  I can give my perspective but keep that in mind.

1) Climb regularly, but don't overdo it.  For most people every day is too much.  Climbing is hard on tendons, pulleys and joints, and while many people can build up muscle strength relatively quickly, all the 'infrastructure' such as tendon strength takes longer to catch up.  That is why many enthusiastic new climbers get strong fast and suddenly have one injury after another.

2) Don't bother with training exercises like hang board, campus board, etc, for your first couple years.  Just climb a lot and do exercises that focus on injury prevention (opposing muscles etc). Heavy training as a beginner can lead to injury and for most people it is tedious - focus on climbing hard and having fun.

3) If you do get injured, STOP until you are healed. Many experienced climbers deal with chronic injuries that they got in their first few years of climbing but never allowed to heal properly.

4) You will have to feel out your diet.  Personally I have to eat a ton of food, especially on dedicated climbing trips or I have no energy.  Some climbers I know eat far less and still climb well.  If you are still building up to a healthy weight, don't be discouraged if it temporarily sets you back in climbing ability.  Your body will catch up in strength and you will be better off at a healthy weight in the long term.

Good luck!

SeƱor Arroz · · LA, CA · Joined Jan 2016 · Points: 10
Diane Rogers wrote: Female. 23 years old. 5'2" 100lbs. I am currently battling an eating disorder, but indoor bouldering has inspired me to pursue a healthy diet. I am still very much a novice climber, but I know I won't get better until my diet improves! Right now I climb every other day for about 1 hour in a gym, but I am looking to start doing once a day. Eventually, by summer, I would like to climb outdoors as well.

Looking for a suggestions on what to eat, like a daily meal plan (breakfast, lunch, post workout meal, and/or dinner).

I already have a very low body fat percentage (due to my disorder), and I would like to work on building muscle.

I am unsure of how many calories I should be eating a day. Ideally, I would like just 3 meals a day with 1 post work out meal (I'm not a huge snacker). I am also a clean eater, so I don't use anything other than salt and pepper haha. So a "boring" diet is perfect for me, if that makes it easier! As of right now, I eat about 2 meals a day, but they are incredibly unbalanced. Which is why I am seeking help.

Thanks in advance. And please no harsh judgement, I'm trying to get better and I think fixing my diet is the first step.

Hi Diane,

Are you seeking professional support for your eating disorder? That seems like the first step to real recovery. Disordered eating always is the result of psychological factors, typically unresolved trauma. A different eating plan won't resolve the underlying issues that brought you to the place you're in. 
Aweffwef Fewfae · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 0

at 5'2" and 100 lbs, your bmi is 18.3. this is slightly below the recommended 18.5 minimum, but a counter example, aishima is a climber at 5'1" but weighs 88 lbs.

here's a metastudy on nutrient requirements for athletes:
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/12760156_Nutritional_Aspects_of_Immunosuppression_in_Athletes

when you say very low body fat from a disorder, i assume malnutrition and possible immunosuppression.
"The ingestion of a 6% carbohydrate drink prior to and at regular intervals during a 2.5 hour treadmill run at approximately 75 to 80% V . O2 max significantly raises plasma glucose, lowers plasma cortisol and attenuates changes in circulating leucocyte subsets."
Nieman DC, Fagoaga OR, Butterworth DE, et al. Carbohydrate supplementation affects blood granulocyte and monocyte trafficking but not function after 2.5 h running. Am J Clin Nutr 1997; 66: 153-9 28.
Nieman DC, Henson DA, Garner EB, et al. Carbohydrate affects natural killer cell redistribution but not function after running. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1997; 29 (10): 1318-24
. this is why i recommend a carbohydrate drink during exercise. you'll find that saliva conditions can promote infection, so carbohydrate drinks would beneficial.
 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28232162
anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa commonly have electrolyte imbalance which can be corrected with diet. many sports drinks contain KALium (potassium), NATrium (sodium) and magnesium. these would likely be under medical advisory as hypoKALemia, hypoNATremia and hypomagnesemia. sports drinks are very sugary and can be a source of weight gain and carbohydrates. americans usually have high amounts of salt which makes sports drinks potentially disadvantageous. however, you stated you don't use salt.

apparently, the consensus of eating fresh vegetables is not optimal.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4517017/
"Additionally, processed tomatoes have higher β-carotene levels compared to fresh tomatoes, as do a variety of other fruits and vegetables which can range up to 50% higher than their fresh counterparts "
"Furthermore, the canning process has also been shown to improve the protein (>7%) and fiber (>5%) content of multiple bean varieties, while also reducing the quantity of lectins "
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25526594
"Ascorbic acid was degraded less in frozen- stored samples than in fresh-stored samples (Figure 1). None of the eight commodities showed losses during frozen storage."
"Frozen peas and green beans exhibited more than 2-fold higher levels of α -tocopherol, while blueberries, spinach, and corn also had significantly higher levels (12 − 39%) in frozen-stored samples, as compared to fresh-stored samples"

eating protein after a workout builds muscle.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23765352
"Dietary protein should be ingested during and/or immediately after cessation of exercise to allow muscle protein synthesis rates to reach maximal levels. "

drink gatorade or powerade while working out. canned beans, spinach, peas, corn, tomatoes, apricots and green beans have all been studied and yielded good results. either eat a protein bar while or after working out or add meat soon after working out for optimal muscle growth.

Brandon.Phillips · · Portola, CA · Joined May 2011 · Points: 55

As far as diet and climbing two books have good sections on this:

The Rock Climbers Training Manual by the Anderson Brothers
Training for the New Alpinism by Steve House and Scott Johnson

The first is based more one high-end performance climbing, and mainly weight management probably not something that will be beneficial to you based on what you've said about your background. The House/ Johnson book focuses more on building muscle, endurance, general fitness and is much more extensive with suggestions for meal plans- you should check it out.

In response to the above post, while I'm not going to cite anything I'm fairly sure scientific consensus that BMI alone is an antiquated metric and that Carbs within the initial 30 minutes post-workout are more important than protein (though protein should be consumed within the next few hours).

If you are not pushing it too hard and just having fun, climbing daily or every other day is probably not going to be that big a deal. If you are climbing at harder levels you will need more recovery time to build adequate muscle. Think about adding in endurance days at lower intensity and ARC training to mix it up.  In my opinion, yoga and body weight exercises are great to mix in as well.

Also, check out the Training Beta podcast, there are many episodes that address diet and speak with sports nutritionists.

Ted Pinson · · Chicago, IL · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 210

I would direct you to check out my friend, Savannah.  She, too went through a similar experience as you and overcame her eating disorder through climbing.  Unfortunately, she is no longer with us, as the very thing that saved her life ended up taking it when she died in a freak climbing accident:
https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-met-wisconsin-climbing-death-20180330-story.html

Savannah maintained a very strong social media presence and blog, where she wrote often about overcoming her eating disorder and body image issues.  Her posts are still available, and you might find them helpful - I know many people did.
http://savannahbuik.com
Good luck, and stay safe out there.

Detrick Snyder · · Michigan, for now · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 140

Sorry for the delay - I'm still waiting for two dietitians to get back to me, but here's a start:

Start here: National Eating Disorders Association.  They've got great blogs that will appeal to all kinds of people, a screening tool, a online chat feature and a free help line.  They can put you in touch with the people in your area you will be able to help you get a diagnosis so that insurance will reimburse you for professional help.

Here's a highly vetted counseling practice - one of the members taught my nutritional counseling professor. They might do a distance session to hook you up with resources: https://marcird.com/counseling/ Here's their page for some higher-level resources: https://marcird.com/resources/

Here are other pages targeted towards recovering from an eating disorder, also recommended by dietitians: https://www.thereallife-rd.com/, http://immaeatthat.com/. These two also have podcasts: https://christyharrison.com/foodpsych/, and Kristen Ackerman's Intuitive Bites (@theintuitive_rd on instagram)

When I get more info, I'll be in touch.  Hope this is helpful for you!  Best of luck, find your tribe, and climb safe!

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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