College athletes struggle with eating disorders

Posted at 12:19 AM, Feb 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-16 11:11:37-05

Catherine Cook-Cottone says her quest to achieve a thin body began decades ago, when she was just 13-years-old.

“We were playing on the inner tube and I fell off and everybody flipped off,” she told 7 Eyewitness News. “She said that wouldn't have happened if you weren't so fat.”

Cook-Cottone says it was at that moment she began her quest to become thin. “I started off dieting, which than evolved into anorexia, which means I was pursuing thinness to beyond where it was healthy for my body.”

The issue Cook-Cottone faced is one nearly 30 million people are battling every day.

“In the college age population eating disorders are very prevalent and they certainly go across all barriers, both socioeconomic with gender with race with different cultures,” Carissa Uschold, a licensed clinical social worker and the eating disorder team coordinator at the University at Buffalo said.

And experts say some sports put participants at risk more than others.

Psychiatrist Dr. Steven Crawford, Co-Director of the Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt, says cross country, swimming and diving all set up the athlete to achieve a lean body.

Sports like gymnastics and ice skating, where the athletes are judged on their lines and their form, could also act as potential triggers.

Uschold says there are signs of eating disorders. “There might be some weight gain there might be some weight loss,” she said. “There might be some fear or preoccupation surrounding food. So if they are looking kind of tired and warn out it's really important to ask what’s going on.”

Cook-Cottone is now living life on the other side of the eating disorder. She is a researcher of eating disorders and also a sounding board for those battling the dark secret.

She says she is living life the way it is meant to be lived – happy, healthy, and strong. “I always thought for a long time if someone didn't see you that you weren't seen,” Cook-Cottone said.

“What I realized as I've done all this work in my own personal growth is that you can really become the person who sees you and that in and of itself is life changing.”

Anyone dealing with an eating disorder can call the Eating Disorders Association of Western New York at 716-885-8834.