Drug Free Sport Staff Writers

Drug Free Sport Staff Writers

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Eating Disorders and Athletes: Know Your Risks

Eating disorders affect people of all ages, backgrounds, and gender. Approximately 5 million Americans, both men and women, suffer from the eating disorders Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa. Americans are obsessed with the way we look, always striving to be thinner with more tone and bigger muscles. Eating disorders have very serious effects on athletic performance, overall and lifelong health, and mental state.

Studies have shown that athletes are at a higher risk of developing eating disorders. Some of these risk factors include:
-Participation in sports where weight is emphasized such as gymnastics and wrestling.
-Participation in sports focusing on the individual versus the team.
-Involvment in endurance sports.
-Holding the inaccurate belief that a lower body weight will lead to better performance.
-Having coaches who focus on the success and performance rather than on the athlete as a person.

Females are at risk of developing the Female Athlete Triad, which includes disordered eating, loss of menstrual periods, and osteoporosis. The loss of calcium and bone can increase the risk of stress fractures and other injuries. The triad affects all aspects of the individual’s health and can lead to life-threatening situations.

To perform at a high level, your body needs fuel (food). If you deprive your body of food and nutrients, as happens when an individual has an eating disorder, your body can’t handle the demands you are placing on it. You will feel fatigued, weak, and tired more often than not. A lower body weight does not guarantee better performance, especially in cases where your body is not getting enough fuel to carry out its daily processes, let alone the extra training demands you place on it.

Disordered eating comes in many forms; eating too few calories, over-exercising, taking diet pills or laxatives, etc. Full blown eating disorders are diagnosed mental disorders, many of which have symptoms that crossover between the different diagnosed diseases. It is important to be aware of your own attitude towards your body and towards food so that you can monitor your individual risk of developing one of these diseases. This month we will take a look at a few different eating disorders, their signs and symptoms, and the effects they can have on the body. Be educated, not only to protect yourself, but to recognize when someone else may be struggling and need help.

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