Losing to Win: Why Young Athletes are at High Risk of Developing Eating Disorders
Sports, especially team sports, offer several advantages for kids and adolescents. The frequent physical activity encourages a lifestyle that is centered on movement. Sports have also been found to increase cognitive ability because it encourages the production and release of endorphins. This gives young athletes the willingness to tackle problems head-on.
It’s not all good things, however; there is a dark side to sports.
Young athletes are under immense pressure to live a disciplined life to be able to and excel in their event. This constant push to be the best can negatively affect their growth and development. Young athletes, both children and adolescents, are susceptible to developing an eating disorder as a way to cope with the pressure. This is especially common for sports that follow set weight classes, such as endurance and aesthetic sports.
As their parent, you are in the best position to recognize the issue before it gets out of hand. It’s up to you to establish a support system for your child that fosters an environment where they are discouraged from developing unhealthy lifestyle choices for their passion.
Determining Possible Risk Factors for Your Child
Prevention is difficult when you don’t know what causes the illness. There are several risk factors that can cause your child to develop an eating disorder. Understanding these determinants will help you identify them in your child.
- Preoccupation with body weight, size, and shape is common in the sports world. Excessive focus on these aspects should raise red flags, especially when it results in behavioral changes in your child, such as an obsession with their calorie intake.
- Another warning sign is overexertion. Whether it manifests as additional hours in the gym or training beyond their coach’s recommendation, the need to work out more than usual might be caused by their need to lose weight or gain muscle.
- For young girls, disordered eating often results in abnormal menstruation cycles. If your child has been missing their period or it is in the extremes (heavy or scant), it might be caused by poor eating habits.
What You Can Do
Although it might be difficult to admit that your child is suffering from an illness, acknowledging the problem paves the way to properly addressing it. As their parent, they look to you for guidance and support. Making sure they feel safe and loved will help them open up when you broach the subject.
- Check in with their coaches.
As someone who interacts with them on a regular basis, your child’s coach has important insight on their behaviour outside of your home. Ask them if they have noticed any change in behaviours that might be indicative of an eating disorder.
- Discourage negative attitude towards weight changes.
Promoting body positivity at home discourages an unhealthy obsession with weight. Since your child’s body is still growing, they will experience changes to their weight. Normalizing this will decrease the internal pressure to stay a certain weight and size. Moreover, work with their coach to find ways to accommodate weight changes so your child won’t feel inadequate in their sport.
- Create a support system with the right people.
There is nothing wrong with seeking help from a professional. In Newport, treatments for eating disorders range from prevention to rehabilitation. Sometimes, outsider intervention is necessary to properly address the problem.
Getting Professional Help
Preventing eating disorders in young athletes requires the creation of a safe and supportive environment that addresses the issue at its core. We at the Center for Cognitive and Behavioral Health provide treatment programs for eating disorders (anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating) in children and adolescents. Our holistic approach provides your child with the necessary coping mechanisms to help them with their urges even after treatment.
Get in touch with us today to learn more.