What Coaches Can do to Prevent Eating Distress in Their Athletes
- Instruct coaches and trainers to recognise the signs and symptoms of Eating Distress and understand their role in helping to prevent them. Those with ED often hide their symptoms to avoid calling attention to them. They are often aware the behaviour is abnormal.
- Provide athletes with accurate information regarding weight loss, body composition, nutritional and sport performance in order to reduce misinformation. Challenge practices that are unhealthy and even counterproductive. Be aware of local professionals who will help educate the athletes.
- Emphasise the health risk of low weight, especially for female athletes with menstrual irregularities or amenorrhoea. The athlete should be referred for medical assessment in these cases.
- Refer to a sport psychologist or other therapist skilled at treating ED if an athlete is chronically dieting and exhibits mildly abnormal eating. Early detection increases the likelihood of successful treatment. Left untreated, the problem may progress to a serious condition.
- De-emphasise weight by not weighing athletes and by minimising (eliminating) comments about weight. Instead, focus on other areas in which athletes have more control in order to improve performance, i.e. focus on strength and physical conditioning, as well as the mental and emotional components of performance.
- Do not assume that reducing body fat or weight will enhance performance. Many studies showed this does not apply to athletes. Improved performance should not be at the expense of the athlete’s health.
- Understand why weight is such a sensitive and personal issue for many people. Since weight is emotionally charged for many, eliminate derogatory comments or behaviours, no matter how slight, about weight. If there is concern about an athlete’s weight, the athlete should be referred for an assessment to a therapist skilled in treating ED.
- Sport personnel should explore their own values and attitudes regarding weight, dieting and body image, and how these values and attitudes may inadvertently affect their athletes. They should understand their role in promoting a positive self-image and self-esteem in their athletes.
- Take warning sings seriously. Take ED behaviour seriously. There is a high mortality and very high suicide rate for those who suffer.