Sports environments and school classrooms can increase the risk of eating disorders among some students. The competition, need for the highest performance, concerns about weight and fastest times and bullying all contribute to the development of eating disorders on and off the field. Coaches and teachers are in a unique position to help identify and prevent eating disorders and other disordered behaviors. Student athletes seem to be at a higher risk because eating disorders have no bounds within a sport. Bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, anorexia nervosa or orthorexia can affect anyone, of any age, in any sport. However, it does typically affect more females than males.
Lean sports such as running, swimming, wrestling, gymnastics and dance are sports that are judged on appearances and body shape and tend to have higher rates of eating disorders, but no sport is immune to an eating disorder. Athletics can be a great way to learn teamwork, self-discipline, mindfulness and the development of the importance of physical activity in daily living and therefore it is important that parents, teachers, coaches and athletes alike keep in mind these goals when competing in sports.
The relationship of a coach with an athlete can be especially important when trying to prevent an eating disorder. The athlete is influenced by the coach’s motivation, their body image, and their relationship with the team, the training, and their competitiveness. Athletes and coaches spend a significant amount of time together during the week, especially if the coach is also one of the athlete’s teachers. The coach or teacher can have a substantial influence on an athlete’s beliefs, perceptions, and behaviors.
Center For Discovery's Treatment Centers specialize in treatment for eating disorders, mental health and dual diagnosis treatment with unique treatment programs for every individual to get them on their way to eating disorder recovery.
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Research at middle schools and high schools have shown that engaging in prevention programs like mindful eating can prevent students from developing eating disorders.
Middle school programs that incorporate mindfulness also work to integrate reframing techniques to help youth reframe their thoughts with the use of dietetics and food science teachers. Studies have shown that eating disorders are deeply rooted in past trauma, low self esteem, unhealthy coping skills, and poor interpersonal relationships and therefore developing a positive body image and high self esteem is important, especially in school-aged children and adolescents. Some schools bring in short-term prevention programs or leadership training such as The Body Positive, Girls on the Run and Girls in the Know that explore healthy lifestyles, body image, and self-care education. Professional therapists, dietitians, and physicians in local communities that volunteer their time to these organizations often lead these educational programs. Other programs have guest speakers who are recovering from an eating disorder and share their personal story.