Coaches and trainers should be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of eating disorders and understand their role in helping prevent them.
- Provide athletes with accurate information regarding weight, weight loss, body composition, nutrition and sport performance to reduce misinformation and challenge practices that are unhealthy and even counterproductive. Find local professionals who can help educate your athletes.
- Emphasize health risks of low weight, especially for female athletes with menstrual irregularities or amenorrhea (these should be referred for medical assessment).
- Refer a chronically dieting athlete (or one exhibiting mildly abnormal eating) to a sports psychologist or other therapist skilled at treating disorders. Early detection increases potential for successful treatment and may prevent progression to an actual eating disorder.
- De-emphasize weight. Avoid weighing athletes and minimize comments about weight. Focus on other areas in which athletes have more control in order to improve performance. There is no risk in improving mental and emotional capacities!
- Don’t assume that reducing body fat or weight will enhance performance. While it can lead to improved performance in some cases, studies show this does not apply to all athletes. Additionally, many individuals respond to weight loss attempts with eating disorder symptoms. Improved performance should not be at the expense of health.
- Understand why weight is such a sensitive and personal issue for many. Since weight can be an emotionally charged issue, eliminate derogatory comments or behaviors, no matter how slight, about weight.
- Don’t automatically curtail athletic participation if an athlete is found to have eating problems, unless warranted by a medical condition. Consider the athlete’s health, physical and emotional safety and self-image when making decisions regarding an athlete’s level of participation in his/her sport.
- Explore your own values and attitudes regarding weight, dieting and body image, and how these may inadvertently affect your athletes.