How to recognise the early signs of an eating disorder
Brian Mackenzie identifies the warning signals of disordered eating.
Prevention is the key to addressing the problem of disordered eating, and education is a necessary first step. Athletes, parents, coaches, athletic administrators, training staff and doctors need to be educated about the risks and warning signals of disordered eating.
Johnson (1994) identifies the following checklist of warning signs:
If you are concerned that someone you know may be suffering from an eating disorder, you need to go softly in approaching them about it. People who are truly anorexic or bulimic will often deny the problem, insisting that there is nothing wrong. Share your concerns about physical symptoms such as lightheadedness, chronic fatigue or lack of concentration. These health changes are more likely to be stepping stones for accepting help. Do not discuss weight or eating habits directly. Avoid mentioning starving/bingeing as the issue and focus on life concerns. Offer a list of sources of professional help.
Although the athlete may deny the problem to your face, they may secretly be desperate for help.
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About the Author
Brian Mackenzie is a British Athletics level 4 performance coach and a coach tutor/assessor. He has been coaching sprint, middle distance and combined event athletes for the past 30+ years and has 45+ years of experience as an endurance athlete.