Fitness professionals have a potentially very important role in helping to prevent the serious consequences of an eating disorder. While exercise is important for healthy living, it can become obsessional for those with eating disorders and can be a form of perfectionism. The risk to heart, bones, fertility and of suicide are great.

Coming soon

ABC will soon be launching a new online course, 'Understanding Eating Disorders for Fitness Professionals'. Tailored to the needs of personal trainers and all types of fitness professionals, the course identifies the main signs and symptoms to look out for, how to initiate a conversation sensitively and appropriately with someone you may be concerned about, and how to support them after diagnosis. 

ABC also provides face to face training and resources for fitness professionals. To register your interest in the online course, or to enquire about face to face training, please email us.

 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 weight loss; those suffering from bulimia nervosa may remain a normal weight and may even look like they are eating normally. However, the reality may be they are making themselves sick frequently to help maintain their weight and 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  • Has the individual become withdrawn?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.