Early intervention and treatment of eating disorders is giving people a significantly better chance of recovery than those who have been living with the condition for a longer period of time, Eating Disorders Victoria says, placing an increased importance on the role of fitness professionals to assist in early identification.
Sometimes a love of exercise and a passion for eating ‘right’ can become obsessive or harmful. Issues like orthorexia (a term which describes a fixation with righteous eating) and compulsive exercise are quickly turning dangerous for some.
Fitness professionals, who are often privy to people’s eating and exercise habits, are encouraged to know and look out for the warning signs in clients, as research shows that the early identification and treatment of eating disorders may give people a significantly better chance of recovery than those who have been living with the condition for a longer period of time.
Eating Disorders Victoria will launch a new website – www.howfaristoofar.org.au – providing specialised information to help people recognise the signs and symptoms of eating disorders and recommend suitable ways to seek help.
“As a fitness professional, you’re in a good position to notice if someone is developing an unhealthy relationship with their body, exercise or food. You might find yourself dealing with clients or colleagues with an eating disorder, and be unsure of what to do,” explains Eating Disorders Victoria Psychologist Loren Byford.
“Understanding the early warning signs of an eating disorder will help. Once you know what to look for, you will have a better idea whether you should talk to someone about your concerns. You aren’t expected to have all the answers – if you are worried about someone, you can help them get the support they need by connecting them with the right services as early as possible. Everyone is different, and what might be a healthy amount of exercise for one person will be an unhealthy amount for someone else. If someone is exercising despite illness or injury, or experiencing anxiety and distress over missed workouts these can all be signs of an unhealthy relationship with exercise.”
The different warning signs can be to do with someone’s mood, their behaviours or attitudes towards food or their body, their performance or their fitness regime. Look out for the following:
- Taking supplements for weight loss/gain, or steroids for performance enhancement
- Thinking constantly about food, in particular whether foods are ‘good’ or ‘bad’
- Becoming anxious about missed sessions or disruption to exercise
- Training despite illness or injury or to the point of exhaustion
- Exercising at unusual times (e.g. in a 24-hour gym, someone who comes at 3am without a legitimate reason)
- Talking about exercise or sport just as a means of burning calories or compensating for food eaten
- Experiencing dizziness, light-headedness, or disorientation during or after exercise
- Feeling preoccupied with weight or weighing themselves frequently
Check out www.howfaristoofar.org.au to get tips on what to look out for and what to do if you are worried about a client or colleague. If you need advice or guidance, contact the Eating Disorders Helpline (1300 550 236 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
For more information, please visit www.eatingdisorders.org.au