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Eating Disorders among Athletes

Competitive sports provide a wide range of benefits to athletes. It improves your health, teaches you the value of teamwork and sportsmanship, and boosts your self-esteem and overall physical appearance. However, some sports emphasize shape and weight requirements that may put athletes at high risk of eating disorders. Some of the sports include:

  • Bodybuilding

  • Wrestling

  • Gymnastics

  • Figure skating

  • Diving

According to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), female athletes are more likely to have eating disorders than male athletes. However, some male athletes also suffer from eating disorders. Additionally, athletes are at more risk of developing eating disorders than the general population.

Currently, Anorexia nervosa and Bulimia nervosa are the two known common types of eating disorders. First, athletes with Anorexia tend to reduce their food intake due to the fear of gaining weight, which causes them to have low body weight. On the other hand, athletes with Bulimia have repeated episodes of binging a large amount of food, feelings of extreme guilt after eating, then followed by episodes of purging. All of these can vary in different forms. These eating disorders are difficult to detect among athletes because they show normal body appearance. Their eating behaviors are often not monitored by their coaches, nutritionist, or dieticians. Therefore, coaches and parents must regularly observe the athletes for possible signs. This include:

  • Focus too much on body weight, shape, and appearance

  • Exercising or training excessively

  • Irregular menstruation for females

  • Decrease performance

  • Restrict/over intake of food

Eating disorders are usually preventable and treatable but can become fatal when not treated. As the doctor says, prevention is so much better than cure. Thus, here are the possible ways we can do to help athletes:

  • Promote positive body image

  • Promote healthy dieting

  • Support co-athletes towards a healthy body

  • Avoid monitoring body weight. If needed, weigh athletes privately.

  • Avoid talking about boy size, shape, and appearance publicly.

  • Emphasize performance


Turning Point of Tampa. (2020). Eating Disorders in Sports.

National Eating Disorders Association. (2018). Eating Disorders & Athletes.

Bowers, E.S. (2014). Why Athletes Develop Eating Disorders.

Stanford Children's Health. (n.d.). Eating Disorders and Young Athletes


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