10 Things Coaches Can Do To Help Prevent Eating Disorders in Their
© Karin Kratina, MA, RD
(May be copied for educational purposes only)
- Instruct coaches and trainers to recognize the signs and symptoms of eating disorders
and understand their role in helping to prevent them. Those with eating problems often
hide their symptoms to avoid calling attention to them. They are often aware the behavior
- Provide athletes with accurate information regarding weight, weight loss, body
composition, nutrition and sports performance in order to reduce misinformation and to
challenge practices that are unhealthy and even counterproductive. Be aware of local
professionals who will help educate athletes.
- Emphasize the health risks of low weight, especially for female athletes with menstrual
irregularities or Amenorrhea. The athlete should be referred for medical assessment in
- Refer to a sports psychologist or other therapist skilled at treating eating disorders
if an athlete is chronically dieting and / or exhibits mildly abnormal eating. Early
detection increases the likelihood of successful treatment left untreated, the
problem may progress to an eating disorder.
- De-emphasize weight by not weighing athletes and by minimizing (eliminating) comments
about eight. 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 (There is no risk in improving mental and
- Do not assume that reducing body fat or weight will enhance performance. While weight
loss or a reduction in body fat can lead to improved performance, studies show that it
doesnt apply to all athletes. Additionally, many individuals respond to weight loss
attempts with eating disorder symptoms. Improved performance should not be at the
- Understand why weight loss is such a sensitive and personal issue for many women. Since
weight is emotionally charged for many, eliminate derogatory comments or behaviors, no
matter how slight, about weight. If there is concern about an athletes weight, the athlete
should be referred for an assessment to a registered Dietician and Sports Psychologist
skilled in treating eating disorders
- Do not automatically curtail athletic participation if an athlete is found to have
eating problems, unless warranted by a medical condition. Consider the athletes
health, physical and emotional safety and self-image when making decisions regarding an
athletes level of participation in his/ her sport.
- 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 signs seriously! Take eating disorder behaviors seriously. There is a
10-15% mortality and 25% suicide rate for those with eating disorders.
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