Athletes, along with their families and coaches, must recognize the problem and take timely action against eating disorders, not only because these can bring athletes to a state in which they can longer perform, but also because these conditions are deadly.The high incidence of eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, among athletes is not accidental.Sometimes, coaches that are pushing performance without necessarily considering the athlete’s overall state of health become part of the problem.
Such symptoms may include an intense preoccupation with food, excessive fasting, binging, purging, fear of being overweight, compulsive exercising and obsession with training even when injured.
This is not to say that men are immune to eating disorders, only that the incidence of these conditions is higher among women.
Additionally, the line between being a dedicated athlete and engaging in compulsive exercising is often blurred by the fact that hard work is expected from these high-octane performers.
However, the first step in anorexia and bulimia treatment in athletes is to help the patient recognize and acknowledge the problem.
It is, therefore, important that athletes seek treatment from eating disorder specialists who are not only aware of the sport culture and its particular challenges but also of the particular needs of an athlete’s body.
Facilities with multidisciplinary teams that have experience in treating athletes are the best option. Do not postpone the call; when it comes to eating disorders, time is an aggravating factor.
Most importantly, they must reevaluate and reshape their interaction with the athlete by emphasizing physical conditioning or strength rather than focusing on weight.
Coaches who become positive factors on the road to rehabilitation can, in an important way, influence how teammates treat and help these athletes, even if indirectly.
High-performance athletes are usually concerned with “perfection,” which is often an influencing factor in developing an eating disorder.
In an article for the Huffington Post, psychiatrist Kimberly Dennis also observes that denial, a common behavior in athletes who have to overcome physical limits as a daily matter, plays an important role in establishing such a condition.