As a fitness professional, chances are you have been exposed to someone; a client, friend or team member, that may have an eating disorder. Unfortunately in our industry it is something that is not uncommon, and it is worth noting that you can’t always tell if someone has an eating disorder just by looking at them so it’s important to be aware of the common warning signs. So, here Loren Byford, Psychologist for Eating Disorders Australia is here to share some tips on what to look out for, and how you can help.
It can be hard to know what to do, or whether you should approach someone; a common fear is that approaching the subject will make things worse. This is almost never the case!
If you are worried about someone, remember that you aren’t expected to have all the answers and it’s not your responsibility to become their personal counsellor. However, you can help them connect with appropriate professional services to help them get the support they need.
Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses affecting approximately 9% of the Australian population, with only one in six getting treatment. An eating disorder is not a lifestyle choice, a diet gone wrong or a cry for attention, and anyone can develop one regardless of their age or gender.
Eating disorders, compulsive exercise and negative body image frequently co-occur. If someone is exercising despite illness or injury, or experiencing a lot of anxiety over missed workouts, they may have an unhealthy relationship with exercise. People who are compulsively exercising often experience a range of eating disorder related symptoms, like unhealthy eating patterns, social withdrawal and body image concerns.
It can be hard to know what to say to someone who might be struggling. It’s a sensitive topic, but one that is of real importance to you, as a fitness professional in promoting the health and wellbeing of your clients and colleagues. Research shows that the earlier an eating disorder is treated, the greater the likelihood of a successful recovery.
If you’re planning on talking to someone about your concerns, it’s important to be prepared. Some tips include:
There are many resources available, especially for fitness professionals.
Encouraging someone to contact the Eating Disorders Victoria Helpline on 1300 550 236 or firstname.lastname@example.org is the best starting point to help them access more specialised support. Eating Disorders Victoria can talk through the options for treatment and explain the different services available, as well as provide a listening ear and confidential support.