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  • Janelle Hunt

Five Things To Know About Athletes and Eating Disorders

For many athletes, food is fuel, but for some, it becomes the enemy. Eating disorders pose a unique set of challenges for athletes, as their bodies require significant amounts of nutrition to perform at their best. In this blog, we’ll explore five things you need to know about athletes and eating disorders.

1. Athletes are at higher risk for eating disorders Studies have shown that athletes, particularly those in weight-sensitive sports such as gymnastics, figure skating, and wrestling, are at higher risk for developing eating disorders. Pressure to maintain a certain weight or physique for their sport, combined with competitive and perfectionist mindsets, can create a dangerous environment. Unfortunately, a widely accepted misconception is that someone can perform better if they have a certain body type or are at a certain weight. This is far from the truth.

2. Eating disorders can affect performance Eating disorders can have significant impacts on an athlete’s performance. Depriving the body of necessary nutrients can lead to fatigue, decreased endurance, increased risk of injury and delay in healing from injuries.

3. Eating disorders come in many forms Many people believe that eating disorders only involve extreme weight loss or refusal to eat, but this is not the case. Eating disorders come in many forms, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, orthorexia (an obsession with only eating “healthy” foods), or a combination of behaviors.

4. The culture of sports can contribute to eating disorders The intense pressure to succeed and the culture of sports can contribute to the development of eating disorders in athletes. Coaches, teammates, and even fans may praise or criticize an athlete based on their performance, weight or appearance, leading to significant pressure.

5. Recovery is possible Recovery from an eating disorder as an athlete is possible when the right team is found. A treatment team, including a therapist, dietitian, and medical provider, can help an athlete navigate the complex aspects of recovery and develop a plan to return to health while still maintaining their athletic goals.

Eating disorders are a significant challenge that many athletes face. The pressure to maintain a certain weight or physique can lead to dangerous behaviors and potential long-term impacts on an athlete’s health. It is important to understand the risks and work towards prevention, as well as supporting and advocating for those struggling with an eating disorder. Recovery is possible, and with the right support, athletes can return to health and continue to excel in their sport. Our team of dietitians specialize in helping athletes get optimal nutrition and heal from disordered eating. Please reach out as we would be happy to help.


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