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Almost everyone wants to lose weight and drop that extra 5 or 10 pounds. But some people take that desire to extreme measures and will literally starve themselves to be thinner. While we usually associate eating disorders with sedentary clients, the truth is that more and more elite athletes are falling prey to unhealthy eating and exercise behaviors.
Society admires the willpower, dedication and perseverance that athletes demonstrate in perfecting their sports.
We tend to place elite athletes on the highest pedestal of celebrity, showering them with praise and respect. Yet, it is very easy for these athletes to get disconnected from the body in the extreme pursuit of perfection and athleticism.
Considerable evidence exists that competitive athletes in certain sports are at greater risk for developing disordered eating and eating disorders than the general population.
For a good majority of the population, sports participation provides a healthy, enjoyable experience that helps build self-esteem and a feeling of mastery Fulkerson et al. However, some people who participate in sports—especially sports that equate leanness with enhanced performance—are more likely to start a pattern of disordered eating behaviors, which can ultimately progress to a dangerous eating disorder.
Prevalence of Eating Disorders in Athletes So how prevalent are eating disorders among athletes? There was little to no evidence of clinically significant problems with anorexia or bulimia in males, but Although most athletes with eating disorders tend to be female, males are at growing risk—especially those who compete in sports that place a high emphasis on diet, appearance, size and weight requirements.
Examples of these sports for men include wrestling, bodybuilding, crew, running cross-country and trackfootball and horse racing. They found that while sports can be a positive experience for some athletes, the same activities can constitute a risk factor for others.
Put simply, there are particular personality variables that predispose an athlete to developing an eating disorder, and specific sport environments seem to create additional risk.
Types of Eating Disorders Eating disorders are severe medical conditions that tend to become chronic if left untreated. These illnesses can be triggered or exacerbated by a number of factors, such as genetics, the environment and life events. Anorexia, bulimia and, particularly, exercise addiction can go undetected and undiagnosed for years.
Eating disorders typically begin with disordered eating and a disordered relationship to the body. Think of the behavior as a continuum, with disordered eating at one end and full-blown eating disorders at the other riskier end. The next sections will describe the different types of eating disorders, their prevalence rates and how fitness professionals can recognize the emergence of an eating disorder.
Anorexia Nervosa Anorexia nervosa typically begins in adolescence and often persists into adulthood. A popular myth is that a diagnosis of anorexia is made only if a person has stopped eating completely. The truth is that patients with anorexia lose weight by restricting their food intake and exercising excessively; a subgroup of anorexics will also induce vomiting after meals.
Even though the prevalence rates for men are much lower, males exhibit the symptoms of anorexia in the same way as women do.
There are two critical time periods when anorexia tends to manifest: Puberty and menopause are also periods that can pose a very high risk for developing anorexia. The personality characteristics associated with anorexia include emotional restraint, rigidity, perfectionism and obsessiveness.
People who develop anorexia usually take comfort in routines and do not like change. People with anorexia are likewise given to excessive exercise, perfectionism, over compliance, selflessness and a denial of discomfort.
Anorexia tends to be most prevalent in nations where food is abundant and society places importance on a thin body ideal.
The condition cuts across all socioeconomic lines and most ethnicities. The medical complications of anorexia are severe and can negatively affect the heart, endocrine system, skeleton, reproductive system, gastrointestinal system, kidneys and even the grey matter mass in the brain.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, people with anorexia tend to feel cold all the time; suffer from severe constipation; fail to have regular periods; develop extremely dry skin, sometimes with a yellowish cast; and have brittle skin and nails APA The Female Athlete Triad Anorexia nervosa has many of the same characteristics as a condition known as the female athlete triad.
The three main symptoms associated with the female athlete triad are disordered eating, amenorrhea loss of menses and osteoporosis.
Coaches are trained to look for these three signs among their athletes to alert them to the presence of an eating disorder.
However, it is important for anyone who trains athletes to know that clients can suffer from the condition but not exhibit all three symptoms. Fitness professionals must also keep in mind that the term female athlete triad is a misnomer because it seems to apply only to women.
In fact, men can suffer from a similar condition: Bulimia Nervosa Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder that is much more difficult to detect than anorexia.May 12, · Eating disorders are serious mental diseases that frequently appear in female athletes. They are abnormal eating behaviors that can be diagnosed only by strict criteria.
Disordered eating, although also characterized as abnormal eating behavior, does not include all the criteria for diagnosing. Eating disorders commonly exist among athletes, especially those involved in sports that place great emphasis on the athlete to be thin.
Sports such as gymnastics, figure skating, dancing, and synchronized swimming have a higher percentage of athletes with eating disorders, than sports such as. Mar 14, · Eating Disorders Among Female Adolescent Athletes In , year-old gymnast Christy Henrich was closing in on her lifelong dream of making the Olympics.
One of the top female gymnasts in the country, she was a leading contender for one of the six coveted spots on the squad that would represent the United States in Seoul.
Eating Disorders describe illnesses that are characterized by irregular eating habits and severe distress or concern about body weight or shape.
Eating disturbances may include inadequate or excessive food intake which can ultimately damage an individual’s well-being. Athletes may be up to three times more likely to develop eating disorders than people who don't play sports.
If you are an athlete at risk for an eating disorder, you need to watch for the warning. Female Eating Disorder Prevalence Rates Prevalence of eating disorders among athletes.
% of athletes have subclinical to clinical eating disorders  42% of female athletes competing in aesthetic sports demonstrated eating disordered behaviors  Dieting Statistics and Prevalence.