Prevention of eating disorders in gymnasts

Prevention is the best way to stop eating disorders in its tracks, and top of the agenda is education. Athletes, parents, coaches, sports administrators, training personnel, and physicians should be fully informed about the risks and warning signs of eating disorders. Warning signs of an eating disorder are:

1.) An obsession with food, calories, and weight.

2.) Constant vocal concern that one is fat, despite an average or below average body weight.

3.) Continuous and growing criticism of one’s own body.

4.) Obtain and consume food in secret.

5.) Feast on large amounts of food and then go to the bathroom.

6.) Consume large amounts of foods inconsistent with weight.

7.) Bloodshot eyes, especially after getting out of the bathroom.

8.) Enlarged parotid glands located at the angle of the jaw, giving the appearance of a chipmunk.

9.) Vomiting or the smell of vomit in the bathroom.

10.) Weight goes up and down for a short period of time.

11.) Severely limit calorie intake.

12.) Misuse of laxatives, even when not necessary.

13.) Excessive exercise even when it is not included in the athlete’s training.

14.) Refrain from eating in front of other people.

15.) Constantly making derogatory comments about yourself immediately after eating.

16.) Wear loose and shapeless garments.

17.) Bad mood

18.) Extreme interest in other people’s eating habits.

19.) Too much consumption of water or diet sodas.

If you realize that your child or someone else may have an eating disorder, you need to approach the situation with a lot of tactics. People who suffer from anorexia or bulimia will often vehemently deny that there is something wrong and that they have a problem. Let him know that you are concerned about his symptoms of dizziness, constant fatigue, and frequent distractions. Use these symptoms as a way to get help. Don’t mention anything related to bingeing or purging, or even eating disorders. Instead, emphasize your concern for their physical and mental health. Provide sources where you can seek professional assistance. A gymnast may deny that she has a problem, but on the inside she may be begging for help.

Where and how to get help

Check with your doctor about clinics or hospitals in your area that specialize in treating eating disorders. You may need medical and psychological help and may participate in therapy with the whole family. You can also check out these resources:

1.) The Eating Disorders Association, Sackville Place, 44 Magdalen Street, Norwich, Norfolk NR3lJE. Telephone (0603) 621414. It is a coordinating organization that coordinates with a network of local groups led by former anorexia and bulimia patients. Provides information, telephone help, and a newsletter. Send to sae for details of local groups.

2.) Compulsive Eaters Anonymous, PO Box 19, Stratford, Manchester M32 9EB. A self-help organization for men and women with eating disorders that uses a “12-step” recovery program inspired by Alcoholics Anonymous. They can put you in touch with the closest of more than 100 groups across the country.

There is still an increase in eating disorders among athletes, especially those who play sports that require a light physique. Sports with a higher incidence of eating disorders include figure skating, gymnastics, dancing, and synchronized swimming, compared to basketball, volleyball, and skiing. In a study conducted by the American College of Sports Medicine in 1992, 62% of women in sports such as gymnastics and figure skating had eating disorders.

Due to the desire to be thin or to gain approval from the judges or their coach, many athletes succumb to eating disorders. Most coaches can trigger the onset of eating disorders by criticizing the athlete’s weight or pressuring him to drop a few pounds. This type of treatment causes the athlete to resort to unhealthy eating habits and intense diets that can have adverse physical and emotional effects.

Athletes are under constant pressure to stay slim, especially in sports that specialize in aesthetic and technical skills. This is because most judges consider body weight as one of the factors when deciding the aesthetic score. Christy Henrich, a world-class gymnast, was once criticized by a judge at a Budapest competition in 1998, for being too fat and necessary to lose weight to be part of the Olympic team. Henrich turned to anorexia and bulimia as a way to lose weight. At one point, he actually weighed only 47 pounds. Eventually, his eating disorders caused his death. Christy Henrich succumbed to multiple organ failure on July 26, 1994 at the age of 22.

Having an eating disorder represents a danger for athletes, as they are more prone to acquiring medical complications such as electrolyte imbalances and cardiac arrhythmias. Minimal calorie intake coupled with strenuous physical activities put their bodies under considerable stress. Like Christy Henrich, they are at increased risk of cardiac arrest. It is difficult to try to convince gymnasts to recognize that they have eating disorders because they consider that extreme weight loss is beneficial for their athletic performance.

Looking at gymnasts’ body sizes over the years, the dramatic drop in weight and body mass went from a standard height of 5’3 “and a weight of 105 pounds. In 1976, to a staggeringly stunted 4’8 “and 88 pounds. in 1992. It is fortunate that the organizations that run international gymnastics have set out to contain this alarming trend. They have decreed that 16 years is the minimum age for girls to participate in International Gymnastics. Today, girls who compete are of healthier weight and mass.

The need to educate parents, coaches, and trainers becomes even more apparent as they must be aware of whether the child has developed an unhealthy obsession with food, diet, and excessive exercise that goes beyond their call. sport.

Part of the gym training program should include lecture sessions given by nutritionists to educate young athletes on proper nutrition and why healthy eating is necessary to fuel a body that undergoes such strenuous activities. It is also critical that gymnasts who already have eating disorders are encouraged and supported in seeking help, and that they are given counseling when they do. Gymnasts with eating disorders need reassurance that they will not be criticized or disparaged if they show up and acknowledge their need for help.

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