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More About Preventing Eating Disorders

Strategies for Coaches

  • De-emphasize weight as a strategy for athletic success. Be aware of your coaching style when success in a sport or activity is perceived to be related to weight. Athletes in these sports may develop eating disorders to attain a specific weight or body shape. Point out that low energy intake contributes to low weight, which in turn can decrease performance and strength. See At-Risk Students.
  • Do not compare one athlete’s body type and performance to another athlete’s body/performance. The other high performance athlete may have an eating disorder.
  • Remember young men and women are sensitive about their weight and body image. Remarks, comments and teasing a student about their body characteristics should not be allowed by anyone.
  • Enhance performance without a focus on weight. Instead focus on healthy habits and behaviors.
  • Promote development of mental and emotional skills and techniques. Among these are the use of imagery, positive self-talk, goal-setting, mental preparation, mindfulness, and relaxation training.
  • Foster mutual connections among athlete and coach/trainer, team members, and other adults and peers.
  • Increase education of athletes, coaches athletic trainers, and other sport personnel about disordered eating, eating disorders, nutrition, and the Female Athlete Triad.
  • Help students who are unable to participate in sports or activities due to an eating disorder, to focus on what they need to do to become healthy enough to return to their sport or activity.
  • Consider the athlete as “injured” until evaluation and recommendations are offered. This should be standard policy.

Strategies for Educators and School Personnel

  • Ensure good communication with team members in school: school nurse, coach, counselors, teachers, etc.
  • Clearly identify supportive school personnel for students and their families.
  • Take students seriously for what they say, feel, and do.
  • Help students appreciate and resist the ways television, magazines, and other media distort the true diversity of human body types.
  • Encourage students to be active and to enjoy what their bodies can do and feel like.
  • Promote self-esteem and self-respect in students.
  • Convey caring and concern, rather than criticizing.
  • Talk privately with the individual student if they need confidentiality. In your discussion focus on health and becoming healthy.
  • Listen non-judgmentally and with compassion to the concerns of your students.