Fighting and eating disorders – a REAL problem (Part One)

Fighting is hard. Early mornings, late nights, hard pad sessions and bruising sparring. The warmth of Namman Muay on the skin often provides the only feeling of relief amongst the endless hours of dedication and sacrifice.


As a fight draws closer, so too does the pressure of weigh in and everything that comes along with it. The constant trips to the bathroom from water loading. The food restriction. The unfortunate trip to the sauna if the final bit of weight is yet to drop off.


And then it happens… you made it.


The scale stops moving and the numbers below you freeze. The promoter yells out your weight and the world lifts off your shoulders. The first sip of water and electrolytes hit your tongue and you’ve never tasted anything as good in your life.


You’ve done it. The hard part is over.


Fighting? That’s the fun bit. That’s what we live for.


It’s often that weigh-in that’s hard. It’s the final bit of training, the final obstacle to overcome.


But what about post-fight? How often does that next day binge turn into a few days, those few days into a week, that week into a fortnight? The sickly feeling of over indulging in all the foods you know you shouldn’t.


This is not a healthy relationship with food. Rewarding yourself is critical to longevity in this sport, being a dumbass is not. Binging is an eating disorder. Yo-yo dieting is an eating disorder. Fighters often fall into both categories.


We are in a dangerous sport and preservation should be priority number one. Too often are promising fighters turned away as the on-going stressors of being a fighter weigh them down, and often diets are the straw that breaks the camel’s back.


As a fighter, try to identify if you have an unhealthy relationship with food. This is challenging and not easy to come to terms with but is critical to your longevity and competitiveness in this sport. A food you may deem ‘bad’ eaten here or there will NOT impact you like a day-long binge. A vitamin and mineral rich diet with an adequate macronutrient distribution will NOT come undone by a cookie or burger here or there. It just doesn’t work that way.


The first step is identification of a problem. The second step is working to solve it.


A CRITICAL NOTE


Condoning giant weight cuts is not admirable, nor is it impressive. It’s stupid and dangerous. Commonly accepted guidelines for weight loss in the week prior to weigh-in is 5 – 8% of body mass (Reale et al., 2018). This is through a calculated manipulation of gut content, carbohydrate stores and body water. It is NOT 5 – 8% weight loss through dehydration alone – this is dangerous and poses great risk to the athlete.

This is part one in a three part series looking at the problems of weight cuts and eating disorders in Muay Thai and combat sports. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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