Exploring eating disorders in sports and fitness

Eating Disorders Awareness Week runs Feb. 1 to 7

Eating disorders among athletes and fitness enthusiasts will be a focus of discussion during Eating Disorders Awareness Week, Feb. 1 to 7.

Eating Disorder Support Network of Alberta is holding the four-hour class Eating Disorders – Awareness and Risk Mitigation for Fitness Professionals on Feb. 3 at Red Deer College where Central Alberta fitness instructors and coaches can learn the warning signs and how to talk to their clients and athletes about eating disorders.

Sue Huff, EDSNA executive director, said as far as she knew this kind of workshop has never been offered in Alberta for fitness professionals who often have no training in eating disorders.

“That’s a real problem because all of them are going to come into contact with people with eating disorders. That’s pretty much a given because of the connection with compulsive exercise and eating disorders, which is quite strong. Also the fact that athletes are at a higher risk of developing eating disorders,” said Huff on Friday.

She said all kinds of athletes are impacted but in particular those in sports with a weight or aesthetic focus like figure skating, gymnastics, ski jumping, track, rowing, jockeys, wrestling, and boxing.

The rate of eating disorders among body builders is almost 80 per cent, Huff said.

“It’s almost impossible to do that event without engaging in highly disordered behaviour around food.”

She said many places have seen a growth of fitness clubs and studios and most instructors do not have any training in the disorder. Even kinesiology programs don’t focus on it.

“It really is a big gaping hole and we’re trying to address it.”

The class, which will also be held on Feb. 3 in Calgary and Edmonton, counts for credits towards Alberta Fitness Leadership Certification Association recertification. The cost is $75 for adults and $30 for students.

On Thursday the documentary film Straight/Curve will be shown as part of Red Deer Justice Film Festival at Welikoklad Centre, 4922 49th St., at 7 p.m.

The film focuses on industries and obstacles responsible for the body image crisis and showcases people fighting for more diversity of size, race and age. Admission is free.

Huff said including the film in the festival is a chance to help break down some of the stigma and create more understanding and compassion around eating disorders.

“Eating disorders sadly are quite common but they’re often hidden and people often experience a lot of shame and stigma and have a very hard time talking about what’s going on.”

To register for the EDSNA class visit www.edsna.ca/edaw.


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