But many skaters are more reticent. In recent interviews with nearly a dozen male skaters from the United States, Germany, Russia and Canada, each said he knew competitors who had battled bulimia, the binge-purge syndrome. But no one volunteered any personal details.
Ron A. Thompson, a consulting psychologist for the Indiana University athletic department, said there was a cultural component to male skaters’ reserve about discussing their body image problems.
“Males are supposed to be stronger and not need psychological assistance,” he wrote in an email. But he said that eating disorders and disordered eating “are not discriminatory, they occur in both genders in all sports.”
According to 2011 statistics cited by the National Eating Disorders Association, 20 million American women and 10 million men will at some point struggle with a clinically significant eating disorder.
Jeremy Abbott, 32, a two-time Olympian who retired last year, strives for a healthy lifestyle, but he said that even now, “in all honesty, my body image is probably very low. I’m not in bad physical condition. I have the concept of that. But I still kind of look in the mirror and nitpick everything.”
Kelly Rippon, Adam’s mother, remembers when his first coach, a woman, informed her that her son, then 10, would never be able to execute advanced jumps because of his “heavy bottom.” The coach suggested that Rippon be steered toward speedskating.
The coach’s critique did not sit well with Kelly Rippon, a former dancer who remembers subsisting on sandwiches that consisted of two lettuce leaves wrapped around a tomato slice. She began to change her eating habits, she said, after the singer Karen Carpenter died from complications of anorexia in 1983.
After noticing that her son, in his teens, had adopted a diet of water-based vegetables, Kelly Rippon sat him down and explained why it was important that he mix in some…