Before cross country started, a Macalester athletics trainer measured me as part of my pre-season physical. I was 5’10’’ and 170 lbs. On Monday, Sept.15th the Macalester Athletics department posted this information to the men’s cross country roster page alongside my high school and hometown. The department also posted the height and weight of every other male on a fall sports team. Women’s soccer, volleyball and golf players have their heights listed but not their weights.
By listing the weights of only men, the athletic department is perpetuating the belief that men don’t have the same weight insecurities as women. But I’m a man and I had body dysmorphia and an eating disorder my first year here. I fixated on my weight and was miserable for it. I’m recovered, now but not all men are. The National Institute of Health estimates that 35 percent of binge eaters are male. Even 1 percent is nothing to ignore. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. The NIH also notes that men are less likely than women to seek help for their condition. Why? Because of the same belief our athletic department holds: Only women are self-conscious about their weight.
I believe the athletics department published this information because they think it offers insight into each student-athlete. It doesn’t. Height and weight are misleading metrics when it comes to athletic performance. They might be moderately correlated with success, but does that warrant disclosure? No, because, when combined, height and weight are sensitive information.
That’s why they’re not listed on women’s rosters. But women aren’t always more insecure about their weight than men. That’s why no one’s weight should be listed.
An alternative theory as to why the athletics department published this information is because it thinks its athletes are comfortable with their bodies. But multiple studies have found that eating disorders are more common among elite athletes than the general population. This makes sense when you compare the psychological profiles of an athlete and an anorexic. Both are perfectionists, compulsive and driven.
It’s not fair for the athletics department to publish sensitive information on their student athletes. It has become socially acceptable to do so for football players, but who’s to assume a football player can’t be self-conscious about their weight? On Monday, I sent an email to athletic directors Kim Chandler and Vanessa Seljeskog requesting they remove the weight data from all team rosters. At this article’s deadline of Tuesday at 9 p.m., they had not responded or taken the information down.
I ask them: If you want Macalester student athletes to focus on their healthiness instead of their weight, should you be posting their weight for everyone to see?