Guide to Keep Female Athletes from Developing Anorexia

The problem of anorexia nervosa may be the farthest thing from a parent’s or coach’s mind when dealing with a female athlete. Parents tend to envision their child as a star athlete who is happy, successful and on top of the world. Also, because of the extreme competitive atmosphere that exists in sports circles today, parents often push their children to achieve that little bit extra in order to stand out in their chosen sport. Then there is the other side of the coin where children experience incredible pressure from coaches bent on winning and other players focused on beating your daughter and any other player out of a top spot on a team or in a competition. The sports world can be brutal and its grueling nature often materializes as anorexia in female athletes. This is especially true as a woman athlete advances in both age and level of competition.

The Nature and Statistics of Anorexia

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder which can develop into a devastating disease if not caught early and treated. Not only can it adversely affect or even destroy the athlete’s career, but it can also lead to death.

Those with anorexia develop an unnatural fear of gaining weight and becoming fat. Internally, affected athletes incessantly crave food while at the same time they ferociously despise it. Due to the drive to stay thin, anorexics are also extremely obsessed with exercise, often pressing themselves to the point of fainting from exhaustion.

Anorexia manifests in such traits as personality disorders, poor self-esteem, withdrawal, perfectionism, poor relationships and more. Although the disease affects both sexes, it tends to develop more in females because of the pressures put on them to be perfect in western society (in both arenas of beauty and sports competition).

Some may be scoffing at the idea when it comes to women athletes developing anorexia. However, a 2001 study conducted by the NCAA entitled Athletes with Eating Disorders: an Overview, 2001 found that within the 2-year study period female athletes who developed anorexia reached as high as 93%!

Since the problem is obviously large and dangerous, here are some ways to prevent young female athletes from acquiring anorexia nervosa.

Don’t Use Weight Loss as Sports Motivation

A blooming female athlete can easily receive debilitating advice from all those around her concerning her weight. Parents, coaches and peers may all whisper in the young player’s ear that if she would just lose another few pounds then she could be the new star athlete.

Even though this may done with the child’s best sports interests in mind, it can be severely damaging to the young girl who is already strongly self-conscious of her weight. She could easily begin to feel inadequate and may turn to starvation methods or grueling exercise routines to shed extra pounds.

Instead of using weight as a sports motivator, stress physical strength and mental toughness. By directing these young female sports stars towards positive and healthy activities, you will automatically help them get into better shape without ever mentioning the fact that they are somewhat overweight or out of shape.

Avoid Comparative Weighing Sessions

Keep in mind that children, and especially young girls, are very susceptible to peer pressure. Many sports conduct group weighing sessions in order to eliminate those considered to be too overweight for the sport, or who have borderline weight problems that need to be addressed.
However, this can be devastating to those young girls who are somewhat overweight or have larger frames than the other girls. Having their weight viewed and commented on in public can cause competition to focus on weight loss between the girls and trigger desires of anorexia.
Instead, young female athletes should have any weight measurements done in private with solid and positive advice given to those who are deemed overweight. Also, weighing sessions should be limited and used sparingly, especially when it comes to young athletes.

Conduct Proper Training and Exercise

When it comes to well developed female athletes, both training and exercise are essential. However, proper management, procedure and nutrition should be stressed in order for them to realize their potential safely. Some girls are pushed into such dangerous sports training weight loss practices as overtraining, cutting key meals, or using a sauna to reduce weight, all of which can lead to serious health issues.
However, by enforcing correct strength training, conditioning and nutritional wellness, you are building a well-rounded athlete that will not only excel as an athlete, but also as a person. This is the best way to protect a young female athlete’s health, keep her away from the dangers of anorexia and provide her with a successful and happy sports experience.

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