Eating Disorders and Young Athletes

Published On: April 1, 2020Categories: Eating Disorders

Sports and Disordered Eating

While sports and organized activities can be helpful when it comes to the development of teamwork and leadership skills, they can also take a toll on your teen’s mental health and body image. Young adults don’t always know how to express their negative thoughts and feelings, making it essential to know the warning signs that your child athlete may be struggling with an eating disorder. Here’s what you should know.

Common Sports Associated with Eating Disorders

Although there are more reports of eating disorders affecting young girls and women, boys and young men are also susceptible to developing an eating disorder. It is also important to note that young athletes are at a greater risk of developing eating disorders when their sport focuses on individual performance, weight requirements, and appearance. Some of these sports include:

  • Dancing
  • Gymnastics
  • Swimming
  • Bodybuilding
  • Wrestling
  • Rowing/crew
  • Figure skating
  • Running/track

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by a person’s restriction of the number of calories and types of food that they eat. It is important to note that you cannot tell if someone has anorexia by simply looking at them; people living with this eating disorder are not always visibly underweight.

Signs and symptoms may include:

  • Preoccupation with food, weight, calories, and dieting
  • Difficulty maintaining a consistent body weight
  • Lack of appetite
  • Avoiding family meals
  • Fear of gaining weight or becoming fat
  • Concerns with eating in front of others
  • Irregular menstrual periods
  • Feeling cold all the time
  • Thinning hair on head and body

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by a person’s behavior of binge eating, followed by another action that is meant to prevent weight gain from the amount of food or calories consumed.

Binge eating is defined as eating more food than the average person would in a given time period, which is then associated with feelings of being out of control. Purging, or compensatory behavior to prevent weight gain, typically manifests in the following ways:

  • Self-induced vomiting
  • Using enemas or laxatives
  • Excessive amounts of exercise
  • Fasting for long periods before their next binge

Signs and symptoms may include:

  • Large amounts of food disappearing
  • Frequent trips to the bathroom following meals
  • Discomfort eating around others
  • Storing or hiding food in strange places
  • Excessive use of breath fresheners like mints, gum, and mouthwash
  • Discolored or stained teeth
  • Extreme mood swings

Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

Binge eating disorder (BED) is an eating disorder characterized by episodes of eating large amounts of food, often to the point of discomfort, while feeling a sense of lost control. These episodes are often followed by a feeling of shame or guilt.

Signs and symptoms may include:

  • Eating more food than the average person in a given period of time
  • Feeling as though they can’t stop eating
  • Eating more rapidly than usual
  • Eating until feeling uncomfortably full
  • Eating large amounts of food even when they aren’t hungry
  • Feeling disgusted with themselves after eating
  • Binge eating episodes at least once a week for three months

If you suspect that your teen may be suffering from an eating disorder, it is important that you speak with your child and initiate the conversation. It is also important that you seek treatment as quickly as possible to support your child on their journey to health and wellness.

Seeking Help at Tapestry

At Tapestry, our treatment programs are dedicated to understanding our clients as whole people with varied life experiences. Whether you have questions about mental health or how to support a loved one struggling with their mental health, we are here for you. Contact us today by filling out a confidential form or give us a call at (828) 490-4032.

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