Apr 26, 2017Positive Start
Key players in addressing the issue of eating disorders among athletes are athletic trainers, sport coaches, and strength coaches. They should strive to promote a culture where team norms and messages support healthy eating and training habits. Here are some additional do’s and don’ts to guide you:
• Become educated on eating disorders in sport.
• Practice positive psychology to motivate players.
• Focus on sport skills, not bodyweight, as a means of achieving performance goals and when giving athletes feedback.
• Emphasize the importance of proper nutrition, hydration, sleep, and rest days.
• Promote healthy eating habits by ensuring access to nutritious foods at team meals, when traveling to away games, and for recovery nutrition.
• Facilitate access to licensed, credentialed nutrition experts who can provide accurate and appropriate nutritional advice to athletes.
• Recognize warning signs, intervene early by making referrals to qualified professionals, know when to limit participation in sport, and provide emotional support.
• Engage in prevention programming with teams. Provide educational resources and connect athletes with nutrition and mental health experts to raise awareness, increase knowledge, and teach athletes skills for self-care and stress management.
• Enforce team weigh-ins or closely monitor athletes’ weights.
• Comment on an athlete’s weight, body size, or food choices, especially in public.
• Put athletes on diets or endorse nutritional fads.
• Condone or turn a blind eye to restrictive eating or excessive exercise behaviors.
• Ignore an athlete who exhibits warning signs. Allowing an athlete to train and compete in an undernourished state condones a behavior that has severe consequences on health and conveys a message to teammates about team norms and acceptable training strategies. In addition, ignoring the warning signs may cause further distress to the affected athlete if they perceive they are not worthy of the coach’s care and concern.
This article first appeared in the March 2017 issue of Training & Conditioning as a sidebar to the “New Points of View” feature.