Sports Performance: Healthy Lifestyles
Northeastern University Sports Performance Department statement on healthy lifestyles
One behavior that may threaten a healthy lifestyle is disordered eating. Due to the nature of collegiate athletics, student athletes in particular are at an increased risk of developing or sustaining patterns of disordered eating. Depending on the extent of the disorder and the length of time the individual has engaged in such behaviors, the effects of disordered eating can range from mild to severe. Recovery from eating disorders can be a difficult process that takes time. In general, the greater the duration and frequency of disordered eating behaviors, the longer it will take for recovery to occur. There is currently NOT substantial research that links thinness, or conversely bulk, to superior performance. Body weight and composition are only minor factors contributing to athletic performance. This protocol/program is intended to lead the student athlete back to a healthier pathway and provide them with medical attention they need to become healthy and strong athletes.
What are Eating Disorders?
Eating Disorders are psychiatric disorders that affect an individual's psychological, nutritional, interpersonal and emotional functioning and health. An eating disorder is characterized by dysfunctional eating patterns and altered perceptions, disturbances or distortions about one's body size and shape. The DSM (Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders) defines eating disorders into subcategories.
A psychiatric diagnosis that describes an eating disorder characterized by low body weight and body image distortion with an obsessive fear of gaining weight. Individuals with anorexia often control body weight by voluntary starvation, purging, vomiting, excessive exercise, or other weight control measures, such as diet pills or diuretic drugs. It primarily affects young adolescent girls in the Western world and has one of the highest mortality rates of any psychiatric condition, with approximately 10% of people diagnosed with the condition eventually dying due to related factors. Anorexia nervosa is a complex condition, involving psychological, neurobiological, and sociological components.
Anorexia nervosa is a life threatening condition that can put a serious strain on many of the body's organs and physiological resources. A recent review of the scientific literature outlined a number of reliable findings in this area. Anorexia can also affect the structure and function of the heart and cardiovascular system, with slow heart rate (bradycardia) and elongation of the QT interval seen early on. People with anorexia typically have a disturbed electrolyte balance, particularly low levels of phosphate, which has been linked to heart failure, muscle weakness, immune dysfunction, and ultimately death. Those who develop anorexia before adulthood may suffer stunted growth and subsequent low levels of essential hormones (including sex hormones) and chronically increased cortisol levels. Osteoporosis can also develop as a result of anorexia, as poor nutrition leads to the retarded growth of essential bone structure and low bone mineral density.
Warning Signs/Signs and Symptoms for Anorexia Nervosa
- Excessive or extreme weight loss/low body mass index
- Unnatural or obsessive preoccupation with food, dieting, and weight
- Distorted body image and intense fear of gaining weight
- Denial of hunger
- Avoidance of social situations with food
- Poor eating habits and decreasing daily intake of food
- Cessation of menstrual periods in females
- Lack of energy, weakness, fatigue, and depression
- Abdominal cramps and other aches and pains
- Excessive exercising
- Decreased coordination
- Inability to concentrate
- Obsessive Compulsive tendencies
- Reduced immune system function/low white blood cell count
- Poor distal circulation
- At risk to self mutilation/harm
A psychological condition in which the subject engages in recurrent binge eating followed by an intentional purging. This purging is done in order to compensate for the excessive intake of the food and to prevent weight gain. Purging typically takes the form of vomiting; inappropriate use of laxatives, enemas, diuretics or other medication; excessive physical exercise; or fasting. New research suggests that some sufferers may have a hormonal imbalance of testosterone; however, this research is in its early stages.
Warning Signs and Symptoms for Bulimia Nervosa
- Avoidance of social eating situations
- Disappearance after meals; long visits to the bathroom after eating
- Denial of hunger
- Hidden stashes of food, particularly high calorie foods such as candy, chips, etc.
- Intake of potassium pills
- Use of laxatives, diet pills, diuretics and emetics
- Bloodshot eyes, possibly due to induced vomiting
- Abrasions on the back of the hand, possibly due to induced vomiting
- Compulsive exercising
- Swollen salivary glands, cheeks, face and lower eyelids
- Muscle atrophy
- Dry or brittle skin, hair, nails and even hair loss
- Teeth erosion and cavities
- Othostatic hypotension
- Hypertension or hypotension
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
Eating Disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS)
This category is frequently used for people who meet some, but not all, of the diagnostic criteria for anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. For example, a person who shows almost all of the symptoms of anorexia nervosa, but who still has a normal menstrual cycle and/or body mass index, can be diagnosed with EDNOS. A sufferer may experience episodes of binging and purging, but may not do so frequently enough to warrant a diagnosis of bulimia nervosa. A person may also engage in binging episodes without the use of inappropriate compensatory behaviors; this is referred to as binge eating disorder. People diagnosed with EDNOS may frequently switch between different eating disorders, or may with time fit all diagnostic criteria for anorexia or bulimia.
Female Athlete Triad
The Female Athlete Triad refers to three interrelated health problems seen in females. These problems include: low energy availability, menstrual disorders, and weak bones. In the extreme, these problems may be expressed as eating disorders, amenorrhea, and osteoporosis.
Male Eating Disorders
Eating disorders are relatively rare in males when compared to females and usually do not include many of the same signs, symptoms or other more serious medical complications that can result from such eating disorders as anorexia and bulimia nervosa which are more commonly found in women. In respect to this topic, males are more likely to suffer from a condition called "Muscle Dysmorphia." Muscle dysmorphia is a disorder in which a person becomes obsessed with the idea that he or she is not muscular enough. Those who suffer from muscle dysmorphia tend to hold delusions that they are "skinny" or "too small" but are often above average in musculature. Sometimes referred to as bigorexia or reverse anorexia nervosa, it is a very specific type of body dysmorphic disorder.
With males, clinicians such as athletic trainers and physicians need to be aware of this issue, especially in athletics, as well as concerns with athletes taking supplements to enhance their physical appearance and athletic performance associated with muscular strength, power, and speed. There are a lot of supplements being sold on the internet and in stores, some healthy and natural and some unhealthy, dangerous, illegal, banned by the NCAA, and unregulated by the food and drug administration. Athletes in particular are a targeted and at risk population because the nature of sports brings upon a very competitive environment. Athletes are constantly trying to gain a competitive edge over their opponents and sometimes feel the need to take supplements that may be illegal, banned by the NCAA or harmful to their body. It is important that athletes are educated about what they are putting into their body to prevent such issues.
No liability is assumed for the information provided on this web site. The text on all the pages of this site is intended for informational and educational purposes only and does not provide medical advice on exercise or diet. Specific medical advice should be obtained from a licensed health-care practitioner. Always check with your doctor before beginning any type of exercise program or diet.