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Updated by My Sports Dietitian / mysportsdconnect.com on May 24, 2014
Headline for Preventing Eating Disorders in Athletes: 10 Tools, Tips and Action Steps
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Preventing Eating Disorders in Athletes: 10 Tools, Tips and Action Steps

As a coach, parent or trainer, you are in a prime position to create a protective and nurturing environment for your athletes. Follow these 10 tips to keep them happy, healthy, and in the game!

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1. Explore your own attitudes around food, body image, dieting and weight

1. Explore your own attitudes around food, body image, dieting and weight

Become comfortable with your own body, enjoying it for its size and figure. Do not let your own struggles become your athlete’s.

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2. Stress fit and healthy bodies, not thin bodies

2. Stress fit and healthy bodies, not thin bodies

Remember, thin does not equal win. Emphasize that changing the numbers on a scale will not necessarily improve performance, but can lead to decreased athletic potential at the expense of your athlete’s health.

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Do not match body build or size to poor athletic performance

Do not match body build or size to poor athletic performance

Focus on other areas your athlete/s can improve including the mental, emotional, and strategic elements of sport. Visit (http://www.sportspsychologycoaching.com/articles/MentalTrainingSystemChecklist.html) for a mental training checklist tool!

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4. Praise your athlete/s for who they are, not how they look

4. Praise your athlete/s for who they are, not how they look

Applaud their efforts outside the realm of sport, and note their personal qualities.

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5. Do not stand for any teasing aimed at appearance

5. Do not stand for any teasing aimed at appearance

Establish a “fat-talk free zone”, stressing that comments about weight and body size are not allowed. For more information on teasing and bullying in sport, visit (http://www.active.com/mountain-biking/articles/coach-s-guide-to-bullying-in-sports)

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6. Be sensitive

6. Be sensitive

Body composition and weight status are extremely personal issues for many. Shedding light on a potential body size insecurity of your athlete can lead to preoccupations with weight, and potential eating disorder development.

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7. Break the myths

7. Break the myths

Contact a physician or sports dietitian to lead discussions on healthy eating and its application to sport performance. Prepare them to challenge the misinformation and fad diets they are bombarded by daily: Start with this resource! (http://win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/PDFs/Myths.pdf)

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8. Make mealtime enjoyable

8. Make mealtime enjoyable

Do not demonize, forbid, or label foods as “bad”. Stress all foods in moderation. What is restricted will only be desired even more so by your athlete/s. Eat along side your athlete/s at team dinners or pre-game meals to demonstrate proper fueling practices.

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9. Do not diet unless prescribed by a physician or registered dietitian

9. Do not diet unless prescribed by a physician or registered dietitian

Following fad diets for quick fix weight loss purposes can send unrealistic and dangerous messages to your athlete/s, while also putting your health at risk. Use this tool to help identify and avoid fad diets: (http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6851)

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10. Know when something should be said

10. Know when something should be said

Familiarize yourself with the signs, symptoms, and risk factors of eating disorders. Reject guilt and do not look the other way if something seems off. Begin to face these conditions by visiting the websites listed below:(http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/)
(http://www.anad.org)
(http://www.aedweb.org)