Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Hungry to Compete

Perfection is the name of the game for high performance athletes. They spend their careers chasing an ideal performance and waiting for that perfect moment that allows them to shine and be crowned a champion. With a significant personal and financial investment accompanying an athlete’s training, the pressures athletes face to perfect their performance are as daunting as any opponent.
A way that these pressures manifest is through the association of performance standards for athletes with the ideal body type one should have to excel at their chosen sport. An unfortunate but all too possible result of this image performance tie is having athletes who suffer from eating disorders for the sake of their sport.

While anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are recognized as diseases, any disordered eating behaviours such as orthorexia nervosa can be harmful and lead to nutrition and mineral deficiencies.

Signs of an eating disorder:
  • Changes in mood, personality, or behaviour
  • Body image emphasis
  • Focus on food
  • Extremes in eating
  • Strong need for control
  • Excessive training
The danger with athletes and eating disorders is that many of the warning signs can be hard to identify. When does extra training or drive turn excessive? The signs can get lost in the guise of better physical condition and performance, ultimately the goal for elite athletes.

Coaches, trainers, anyone a part of an athlete’s support team, have a crucial role in not only preventing problematic eating, but also being the first responder in identifying the signs and symptoms. Recent studies show that athletes who have positive coach-athlete relations are less at risk of developing disordered eating habits. Coaches should work with their athletes to create a strong and positive psychological make-up that minimizes an athlete’s self-directed pressures.

In raising awareness of eating disorders in the athlete community it is important to note that while most studies have focused on either female athletes, those involved in aesthetically styled sports, or sports divided by weight class, that eating disorders are not limited to these groups. Regardless of gender or sport, eating disorders are diseases that can affect any type of athlete.

References available from SIRC Collection:

1. Bond C, Bonci L, Vanderbunt E, et al. National Athletic Trainers' Association Position Statement: Preventing, Detecting, and Managing Disordered Eating in Athletes. Journal Of Athletic Training. January 2008;43(1):80-108. 
2. Chaki B, Pal S, Bandyopadhyay A. Exploring scientific legitimacy of orthorexia nervosa:a newly emerging eating disorder. Journal Of Human Sport & Exercise. December 2013;8(4):1045-1053.
3. Currie A. Sport and Eating Disorders - Understanding and Managing the Risks. Asian Journal Of Sports Medicine. June 2010;1(2):63-68. 
4. Glazer J. Eating Disorders Among Male Athletes. Current Sports Medicine Reports (American College Of Sports Medicine). November 2008;7(6):332-337. 
5. Haase A. Physique Anxiety and Disordered Eating Correlates in Female Athletes: Differences in Team and Individual Sports. Journal Of Clinical Sport Psychology. September 2009;3(3):218-231. 
6. Selby C, Reel J. A Coach's Guide to Identifying and Helping Athletes with Eating Disorders. Journal Of Sport Psychology In Action. May 2011;2(2):100-112. 
7. Sundgot-Borgen J, Torstveit M. Aspects of disordered eating continuum in elite high-intensity sports. Scandinavian Journal Of Medicine & Science In Sports. October 2, 2010;20:112-121. 
8. Torstveit M, Rosenvinge J, Sundgot-Borgen J. Prevalence of eating disorders and the predictive power of risk models in female elite athletes: a controlled study. Scandinavian Journal Of Medicine & Science In Sports. February 2008;18(1):108-118.

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