Eating Disorder Referral and Information Center
International Eating Disorder Referral Organization
Female Athletes and Eating Disorders
Athleticism is usually viewed as an excellent attribute for young people, especially in today’s sedentary society. What parent wouldn’t want to see their child participating in a sport after school, rather than sitting alone playing computer games? Yet a cautionary note exists when it comes to certain athletics pursued by girls, female adolescents, and young women. This concern involves eating disorders, which are now epidemic in the United States, with a full ten million individuals suffering from anorexia and bulimia.
Female athletes are more prone to eating disorders than non-athletes. This is especially the case when females are involved in sports that necessitate a certain body type or weight, or when success tends to be more appearance-based than performance-based. This includes such sports as track and field, gymnastics, ballet, and other forms of dance. Cheerleading also qualifies, since it is deemed a sport at many high schools and colleges.
Research indicates that female athletes in judged sports have a 13 percent prevalence of eating disorders, compared to just 3 percent in the general population. Factors that contribute to risk for developing an eating disorder include: endurance sports, sports with weight categories, individual sports, "lean" sports, and sports with revealing clothing.
Female athletes struggling with eating disorders are not unlike other women and girls dealing with similar issues. They rarely admit to having a problem, for fear of losing playing time or displeasing others. They may incur more injuries and have declining health, as they abuse exercise and even their training schedule. Other signs that an athlete may be suffering from an eating disorder include:
• Significant weight loss of more than 15 percent total body weight
• Chronic fatigue
• Fainting and/or dizziness
• Hair loss
• Loss of menstrual cycle
• Loss of relationships
• Lack of interest in other life activities
• Overall poor balance mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually
What is important for parents, coaches, and athletes to remember is that an athlete who struggles with an eating disorder doesn’t have to automatically give up her sport. Treatment is available; she can get the help she needs. Once the motivation behind the disorder is understood and the issues are addressed, health can be regained. From there, decisions can be made regarding when to return to training and competition.
If left untreated, however, the long-term medical consequences of an eating disorder can be grave, including infertility, osteoporosis, brain shrinkage, and permanent damage to the digestive system, to say nothing of the profoundly negative impact that the eating disorder has on relationships with friends and family.
If you are an athlete with an eating disorder, or know someone who is struggling, please get help.
Article courtesy Remuda Ranch. See their link here.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are strictly those of the author and are presented without editing. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the position or the policy of EDReferral.com, and no official endorsement by EDReferral.com of the opinions expressed herein should be inferred.
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*We cannot diagnose or treat eating disorders by email, but we can send you information and assist you in finding resources. Information provided by the Eating Disorder Referral and Information Center is not a substitute for medical treatment or psychological care. It is vital that you talk with your physician and a qualified mental health professional regarding eating disorder symptoms and treatment.
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