Although anyone can develop eating disorders some students are particularly susceptible including, adolescent females with low self-esteem and students who participate in sports or activities in which success is perceived to be related to "thinness." These include activities and sports that emphasize individual performance, are scored on aesthetics, or that require specific weight ranges or body types:
Judged and aesthetic sports: diving, swimming, figure skating, gymnastics
Individual appearance: ballet, dance, cheerleading
Endurance: cross country and distance running
Weight-class sports which require specific weight ranges: lightweight rowing, wrestling
Revealing uniforms or sport attire: track, swimming, volleyball
Habits of a good athlete are often similar to the habits of a person with an eating disorder. They both pay close attention to what they eat and how they exercise. The danger is when these habits are taken to extremes.
Disordered eating can become a coping mechanism for dealing with the pressure associated with competitive sports.
Place emphasis on health and nutrition rather than on ideal body types.
The Female Athlete Triad
Female athletes are susceptible to a condition called "Female Athlete Triad" which is characterized by three main issues.
Loss of menstrual periods (amenorrhea)
Loss of bone density (osteopenia, or osteoporosis) – can only be diagnosed by trained professionals using special equipment.
Athletes with symptoms are unlikely to recover without proper diagnosis and treatment. Think of it as "Required."
Female Athlete Triad usually begins with disordered eating, can negatively affect athletic performance, and increases the risk of injury as health deteriorates.
Loss of Menstrual Periods (Amenorrhea)
Loss or cessation of menstrual periods is often due to an imbalance between eating enough calories and the expenditure of energy during competitive sports training. Competitive female athletes often stop menstruating during their sports season. Although it may be considered the "norm" it is not necessarily healthy for bones, and female athletes should keep track of their periods. Missing menstrual periods for more than 6 months can result in loss of bone, which may be irreversible.
If prolonged, a loss of bone when adolescents should be gaining bone, results in weak bones that break easily. Fracture injuries may indicate weak bones.
School personnel should emphasize that balanced healthy nutrition and physical activity are key factors for good health and better performance in academics and sports.