My professional training as a dietitian was in the area of eating disorders. I was part of a multidisciplinary treatment team in a hospital-based setting and provided individual nutrition counseling to patients suffering with eating disorders. One of the hallmark features of eating disorders is they do not discriminate. It is not surprising that both male and female athletes who use their bodies for function and beauty are vulnerable.
High school students spend many more hours outside the home than in the home. For the student athletes, the adults spending the most time with them are often coaches. Coaches are in a position to notice changes in bodies, performance and health maybe even more quickly than parents. They may be the first adults to recognize the warning signs and symptoms of eating disorders.
Eating disorders treatment professionals want to support coaches and created a Tool Kit to help educate them about all aspects of the disease. Specifically, coaches need to know the signs and symptoms, how to talk to the athlete and parents about concerns, and create an atmosphere where positive body image is the norm. The Tool Kit is geared toward prevention and awareness; not treatment.
Eating disorders are diseases, not choices. The best outcome for anyone suffering from an eating disorder is early intervention and treatment. Coaches have a unique vantage point. Given the right information and support, coaches can be extremely effective at creating a healthy environment as well as helping an athlete suffering from an eating disorder get professional help.
To find more information about eating disorders and download the Tool Kit for Coaches & Trainers (free), visit the National Eating Disorders Website.