Staša Gejo talks eating disorder part 2

EDITORIAL

Wednesday, 6 October

"My name is Staša Gejo, I am 23 years old, 175 cm tall, and I have won medals at the World level competitions when I weighed 67 kg, 57 kg, 62 kg, 65 kg, 69 kg and 67 kg again. I had lost 10 kg in my teenage years, making me lose my periods, get prone to injuries and fall down this deep hole of never-ending starving, which luckily came to an end in 2017. I won all the possible titles in the Junior category by eating 1200 kcal, running 4 times a week and climb 5 times a week, all while attending a difficult high school programme IB (International Baccalaureate). Didn’t last long until I burned out.

Mom and Dad took me to a nutritionist, a very respected doctor in the Serbian sports scene, dr. Marija Andjelković, who helped me rearrange my food intake, start eating more, and train harder. After a few years, I now have 50% muscle mass, 13% fat and a BMI of 22.2. I feel healthy, strong and confident.

Unfortunately, I have observed patterns of unforgivable behaviour of those in charge of young athletes, especially girls, when they reach puberty. Girls are being blinded by some 'role models that look like skeletons, in the hope to make them achieve it too. Luckily, I was not a victim of such systematic torture, I was my own victim, as is mostly the case;

Somebody's mother forced her to diet, otherwise, she is no good.
Somebody's coach said she can't compete so 'fat'.
'Look at ****, she runs 10 km every other day!'

I must admit, ripped muscular bodies look unrealistically good. We all drop the jaws when we see all those abs and small muscles we rarely get to see. It has a good reason to be a social media viral content and magazine cover page. But anybody who has been there hasn't felt alright. Perfection simply isn't sustainable.

Climbing is known to be the sport of the skinny, even though it doesn't have weight categories. As the sport has seen the increase of critically underweight athletes, the regulations were set. Weight and height measurements have been taken before almost every World Cup Semifinals. In the beginning, the critical values were 17,5 for women and 18.5 for men. As it was realised later on, this limit was too low to address most of the critical cases, therefore it was increased to 18 and 19 respectively. Does it still address the issue? Not really.

The consequences of beating this limit are rather… complicated. Or it depends on the national federation, I guess… Some take it seriously, ban the athlete from the competition, take action to help return to normal weight, help maintain it and return the athlete to healthy performance. One beautiful example of recovery took place in 2019, I have seen the girl this year, more beautiful than ever, looking strong and healthy. It made me so happy to see it.

However, things aren't always handled this nicely. Most of the super skinny cases we still see on the competitions somehow pass these regulations, not sure how exactly. The good old signature move of handwashing, I suppose. A friend and colleague confessed to me:˝Whenever I underperform in bouldering, I know that I need to work on my power, coordination, whatever… but in lead, my first thought is – if I lose 5 kg I can beat them all, no problem. It is impossible to think in any other way when you see abnormally skinny people still competing and climbing higher than you. Then I must be too heavy!˝(claimed at weight probably 55 kg, maybe less, my guess). This thought process is hunting almost everybody who competes in the female category.

During the BMI screenings some athletes even take a peek to see who weighs how much… I don't understand the point. But from such peeking, I heard a rumour (which might not be true) that someone (not to be named) weighs 34 kg. I really hope it isn't true."

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