Becoming an athlete is a great choice to build a person’s self-esteem, promote physical health, and increase social relationships. However, do you know that there is a dark side to being an athlete? This article will discuss how various competitions and activities could lead to eating disorders in athletes.
The occurrence of Eating Disorder in Athletes
When we talk about athleticism, we often emphasize the physical aspect of it. From having an exceptional body tone to maintaining an ideal weight, there is nothing else that we can imagine of how an athlete looks like.
However, being an athlete also has its downside. Other than staying in tip-top shape, an athlete must also struggle with other factors. To make it more specific, an athlete focuses on winning the competition. The mindset of winning during competitive athletic competitions can create a severe problem.
The pressures to become a winner can take a toll not only on the athlete’s physical health but also on their psychological condition. Athletes will develop a habit of keeping up with their competitors and zone out on social standards.
Eating Disorders in Athletes: Gender Distribution
Eating disorders are common among women. In several studies, female athletes tend to show more consciousness about their body image than male athletes. Some women athletes develop an unhealthy obsession with diet, food, and weight. This habit leads to common eating disorders such as:
A person with this eating disorder has an excessive fear of gaining weight. They follow a severe calorie restriction on their diet, which causes extreme thinness. They find a distorted body image to be ideal than the normal one.
A bulimic athlete has a habit of eating excessive and large amounts of food for a time but will eventually follow it with purging. Purging includes self-induced vomiting, the use of laxatives, and other ways to get the food out of their body.
A binge-eating disorder becomes common to athletes when they find themselves in stressful situations. They lose control over their eating habits and eat large amounts of food. A feeling of extreme guilt often follows this habit.
What is the Female Athlete Triad?
The female athlete triad includes amenorrhea, osteoporosis, and eating disorders. Women athletes who happen to have eating disorders tend to lack nutritional value. When a woman takes in less than the recommended daily nutrition intake, she is prone to develop an imbalance of hormones. This hormonal imbalance leads to an abnormality in her menstrual cycle.
The female athlete may have frequent periods or a complete cessation of her menstruation, also known as amenorrhea. If a person has an irregular menstrual cycle, it can significantly lower calcium levels and bone loss. This condition will put the female athlete at a greater risk of having stress fractures.
Conditions that relate to the female athlete triad are a severe medical concern. These conditions can lead to life-threatening risks that are difficult to treat.
Who Can Have the Female Athlete Triad?
Even though all female athletes can develop this triad, adolescent women are at the most risk. Teenage girls are more prone to experience this condition because they still have active biological development and experience rapid body growth. Women in their adolescent years tend to deal with social acceptance, peer pressure, and other lifestyle concerns that may affect their diet and overall health.
Coping with Eating Disorders
The key to coping with an eating disorder lies within self-love and acceptance. If you experience these eating disorders or happen to know someone who has one, it is essential to know your value regardless of your physical appearance. Here are some tips that you can help prevent eating disorders in athletes:
- Encourage healthy techniques that can help improve their performance.
- Work on balancing physical strength and building the right mental attitude.
- Look for a coach that could provide you with a positive influence on your body and appearance.
- Have enough motivation and enthusiasm that could shield you against peer pressure and stress.
- Develop an ideal plan that focuses on health and fitness.
- Understanding the way how your body works. Learn the metabolism process and natural ways that could help you maintain your weight.
- Talk to a mental health provider in case of mental health concerns.
(How Eating Disorders Develop in Athletes., November 2020).
(The struggle is real: Life of an athlete., August 2017).
(Why do athletes struggle with eating disorders?, November 2018).