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AIS And NEDC Call For Eating Disorder Awareness

T
he Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) and National Eating Disorders Collaboration (NEDC) have partnered to make a call for action around awareness of eating disorders in high-performance sport.

The AIS have released the AIS-NEDC Disordered Eating in High Performance Sport position statement and supporting resources.

The position statement provides the ability for sporting organisations to appropriately address poor self-image and body image among high-performance athletes, with the release of a toolkit of resources.

The toolkit provides sporting organisations the resources to improve understanding of the signs and symptoms of disordered eating and be in a better position to refer athletes to seek additional help.

AIS chief medical officer, Dr. David Hughes, said all sporting organisations should develop a sport-specific disordered eating policy.

“Disordered eating and eating disorders occur commonly in the general community and sport is a microcosm of society,” Dr. Hughes said.

“Due to the nature of high-performance sport we know that there is a higher prevalence of disordered eating and eating disorders in athletes compared to non-athletes.

“Disordered eating is extremely complex and can affect the mental and physical health, as well as the performance of athletes.

“To help foster a healthy sport system for all athletes, we believe all sporting organisations should have a disordered eating policy in place that is tailored to suit the needs of their organisation and athletes,” he said.

NEDC national director, Dr. Beth Shelton, said the position statement and toolkit puts the health and wellbeing of athlete’s front-and-centre for national discussion and recognition.

“The AIS is providing vital leadership by generating conversation about disordered eating and eating disorders in the high-performance sporting environment, and by providing resources to help promote athletes’ mental and physical wellbeing,” Dr. Shelton said.

“The guidelines and resources that have been developed will help everyone who works directly with athletes to better understand the warning signs, or red flags, and be in a stronger position to support athletes to seek help if they need,” she said.

Paralympian Jessica Smith, who lived with an eating disorder during her international swimming career, said early identification and prevention are the keys to managing disordered eating.

“As with many mental illnesses, there is still this stigma in society that may be preventing athletes from seeking help,” Smith said.

“Education and conversation across the whole high-performance sport environment will hopefully encourage anyone who needs help to come forward,” she said.