Are you concerned about a person showing obvious signs of an eating disorder and exercise obsession within your gym? Would you like the knowledge and confidence to approach that person and take the appropriate safeguarding actions?

ABC has been working with fitness instructors at Team Bath at the University of Bath to create a co-written online course, designed to provide fitness and coaching professionals with supportive guidelines and practical strategies for safeguarding members affected by eating disorders. 


The course

  • Provides every health, fitness and coaching professional with an understanding and basic knowledge of eating disorders 

  • Provides insight into the physical and psychological aspects of an eating disorder and to teach appropriate ways to approach those affected

  • Explores your duty of care as managers and fitness professionals and the importance of adhering to health and safety policies, that will communicate a code of best practice and will prevent potential problematic situations with clients arising

  • Equips you with the practical tools to identify and approach those affected confidently and professionally including essential dialogues and assessment questions

  • Provides a comprehensive list of specialists within the key related areas such as psychology, nutrition and to provide signposting to organisations and medical professionals, in order to best support you in your role.  

Below is an extract from the course, which looks at spotting the signs of an eating disorder within your gym. 

 Signs to look out for include:

  • Continuing weight loss

  • Impaired performance

  • Poor recovery between sessions

  • Irritability

  • Athlete wearing more clothing

  • Athlete complaining of being tired

  • Compulsive excessive exercise, i.e. continuing overuse of cardio equipment; specific use of one piece of equipment for an hour or longer; more than one visit to the gym during a day; gym training in addition to high intensity cardio classes and back-to-back sessions

  • Despite a physical injury or complaint, i.e. weak ankle, obvious pain in wrist, still continues with high intensity or endurance training

  • Excessive need to eat ‘clean’ and maximise training to reach a performance goal through restriction 

  • Possible purging methods – laxatives, SIV, slimming pills. Regular use of supplements, protein shakes. 

 It is important to remember that not all eating disorders will cause a weight loss; those suffering from bulimia nervosa may remain a normal weight and may even look like they are eating normally but the reality is they are making themselves sick frequently to help maintain their weight and also keep control.

If a coach/parent has their suspicions then it is worth asking questions of the individual and also those close to them such as friends, flatmates and family:

  • Has the individual become withdrawn?

  • Is the individual disappearing at mealtimes?

  • Is the individual sleeping? (Low energy intake, especially carbohydrate, will cause poor sleeping patterns)

  • If it is a female athlete, when was her last period?

  • Interestingly male sufferers tend to present with very low body fat composition, increased desires to be lean but strong and have an excessive relationship with lifting weights in the gym. What may have started as a general interest to build muscle soon becomes an obsession with controlling their food intake; becoming fixated on reducing carbohydrate and fat from their diet to a dangerous level, while still spending hours exercising daily.

  • As is often seen in cases of disordered eating and body dysmorphia, there is a drive for control and “perfection” usually unrelated but soon becomes expressed through food restriction.  

For more information and details on how to sign up for the course, email us today