Olympic medallist Janja Garnbret cautions that eating problems are a “cultural” issue in climbing.

Janja Garnbret is one of the few people who has experience in the realm of competitive climbing, having won eight world championships and an Olympic gold medal. After reaching the pinnacle of the sport, the Slovenian intends to utilize her position to advocate for change about “cultural” climbing traps that, in her opinion, are fueling the epidemic of eating disorders. According to her, the issue arises from the antiquated belief that a lighter weight corresponds with a speedier ascent. She claims that because of this mentality, young athletes are starting to skip or drastically reduce their meal intake, sometimes with disastrous results.

Although she does not personally struggle with eating disorders, she is well aware of friends and competitors who have harmed their bodies in the name of losing weight. Weight does play a part in climbing, as Garnbret acknowledges in an interview with CNN Sport. “This is a cultural thing in climbing, it’s integrated in our brains that the lighter you are, the stronger you are.” It goes without saying that you don’t want to weigh too much or too little; the ideal weight is somewhere in the middle. “I firmly think that participating in any sport, including climbing, can be done in a healthy way.” Growing up, Garnbret claims that all of her climbing role models were “super skinny,” which only served to perpetuate the idea that losing weight was necessary in order to compete at the international level. “You aspire to emulate those who succeed when you witness them. You wish for outcomes similar to theirs. You wish to resemble them,” she remarks. “I was in the similar situation, but fortunately I escaped this trap.

There were folks there to help me choose the correct course.”I attempted to assist those who had fallen victim to this scam as much as I could. For about two years, I was making a lot of effort to help them escape, but I was unable to do so. I found it really difficult to watch people harm themselves both physically and mentally. These kinds of encounters led Garnbret to write a message regarding eating disorders on Instagram in July 2023. “Do we wish to raise skeletons for the future generation? Having brittle hair, wearing a lifeless expression, and pretending to be alright but are you really? In an extensive post, she attempted to shed light on the previously forbidden subject. US rock climber Sasha DiGiulian was among many who expressed support for the post, which generated a tremendous amount of attention and waves throughout the climbing world.

The syndrome known as Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (REDs) is what Garnbret discussed in her message. It is a condition that happens to people of any gender who have overtrained or underfed for an extended period of time in an effort to increase their athletic performance, frequently without realizing the risks of not making up for the energy they use in training, competition, and daily life. Medical professionals claim that REDs can impair an athlete’s performance on the field as well as their metabolism, immunological system, cardiovascular health, menstrual cycle, mental health, and bone health, which can result in more fractures.

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