The International Olympic Committee has published recommendations for reducing the risk of the Female Athlete Triad, available at: .
Female athletes with a genetic predisposition to eating disorders may develop them as a result of restricting calories in an attempt to be thin. They may do so in order to please coaches and judges, or because they believe that it allows them a competitive advantage. Comments from coaches pertaining to body weight can potentially cause an athlete to resort to dangerous methods of weight control. Such practices also can cause serious emotional damage to the athlete.
In sports where athletes are judged by technical and artistic merit, they can feel enormous pressure to be thin. Many judges consider thinness to be an important factor when deciding the artistic score. In 1988, at a meet in Budapest, a US judge told Christy Henrich , one of the world’s top gymnasts, that she was too fat and needed to lose weight if she hoped to make the Olympic squad. Christy resorted to anorexia and bulimia as a way to control her weight, and her eating disorders eventually took her life. Christy Henrich died at the age of 22 of multiple organ failure.
Not lastly, some sports emphasize the need for thinness, which is seen as an essential factor in improving performance. This happens in fields such as gymnastics, figure skating or running. Added to the stress that athletic performance involves, and to the usual risk factors and personal family history that may create just the right breeding conditions for these mental diseases, these premises make athletes a group that is highly susceptible to developing eating disorders.
A handicapping factor in the attempt to treat these patients is the fact that athletes believe in the value of being thin as a basis for athletic success. Additionally, the line between being a dedicated athlete and engaging in compulsive exercising is often blurred by the fact that hard work is expected from these high-octane performers. However, the first step in anorexia and bulimia treatment in athletes is to help the patient recognize and acknowledge the problem.
If you can relate to the above saying, you are not alone. It is estimated that 75 million people worldwide suffer from eating disorders, including anorexia and bulimia. While most are women, about 10 to 15 percent are men.
Teenagers and young adults are most likely to have eating disorders, but people of all ages, including young children, can have these conditions. Unfortunately, many suffer in silence, ashamed or embarrassed to seek help, or unaware that help is even out there.