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Oct 22, 2020

The Climbers Speaking Up About Eating Disorders

Kai Lightner (Photo: John Evans)
Kai Lightner

To become an elite climber, you need to get very good at defying gravity. This requires developing extraordinary control of your body while also maximizing your strength to weight ratio. To do that, you train constantly and also pay attention to your diet. At the upper echelons of the sport, where every move counts, there’s pressure on athletes to do all they can to make themselves stronger, while also getting smaller and lighter. For professional climbers Kai Lightner and Beth Rodden, that pressure led them both to develop eating disorders. Rodden was a major figure in traditional climbing in the early 2000s, when she helped push the discipline forward. Lightner is a top sport climber who’s currently active in competitions. But while they come from different eras, they faced similar challenges. Both of them recently wrote essays for Outside about their hard times and their recovery. In this episode, they open up about their journeys and talk about the need to change damaging beliefs about weight and food that are deeply embedded in the culture of the sport.  


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Outside’s longstanding literary storytelling tradition comes to life in audio with features that will both entertain and inform listeners. We launched in March 2016 with our first series, Science of Survival, which was developed in partnership with PRX, distributors of the idolized This American Life and The Moth Radio Hour, among others. We have since expanded our show and now offer a range of story formats, including interviews with the biggest figures in sports, adventure, and politics, as well as reports from our correspondents in the field.