Women's Soccer and Eating Disorders

Those who play the game or who are fans, friends or family, are familiar with the troublesome topic of eating disorders. Below is important information on this subject from Food Guide for Soccer.

It's simply an unfortunate fact that eating disorders are a part of women's soccer, like many women's sports and women's lives. If you suspect your teammate(s) or friend is struggling with food issues, speak up! Anorexia and bulimia are self-destructive eating behaviors that may signal underlying depression and can be life-threatening. Below are some helpful tips. For a list of organizations dealing with food issues, check out the Internet, or Food Guide for Soccer.

  • Approach the person gently but be persistent. Say that you are worried about her health. She, too, may be concerned about her loss of concentration, light-headedness, or chronic fatigue. These health changes are more likely to be a stepping-stone to accepting help, since the person clings to food and exercise for feelings of control and stability. If you are a parent, pay attention to your own player's eating habits, and those of her teammates. Consult with other parents or the coach if necessary.
  • Don't discuss weight or eating habits. Address the fundamental problems of life. Focus on unhappiness as the reason for seeking help. Point out how anxious, tired, and/or irritable the person has been lately or, how unhappy she is with her performance on the field. Emphasize that she doesn't have to be that way.
  • Suggest the coach or team manager distribute or post a list of resources (with tear-off websites at the bottom) where the person will see it.

Be proactive. Invite a sports nutritionist or other eating disorders expert to give a talk to the team. Remember that you are not responsible and can only try to help. Your power comes from connecting with community resources and health professionals, such as a counselor, nutritionist, or eating disorders clinic.

Read more tips like these in "Food Guide for Soccer--Tips & Recipes From the Pros" by Gloria Averbuch and Nancy Clark, RD. The book addresses nutrition questions and concerns of soccer athletes of all ages, and offers almost 50 recipes from players in Women's Professional Soccer. Find the book at NancyClarkRD.com or at Amazon.com.

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