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Eating Disorders

Since weight cutting and combat sports put such an emphasis on weight itself, it may result in athletes having eating disorders. Athletes may heavily focus on cutting or gaining weight, which can lead to unhealthy practices that both impact their mind and body.

Eating disorders may be deadly, and it is very important to recognize and help athletes who struggle with this. Conditions like anorexia and bulimia can lead to severe malnutrition, which can be deadly. If untreated death is a possible outcome. Mental health also plays a large role within eating disorders. 

Prevention and Solutions

There can be many different sides to the issue where this problem can be prevented or solved. We can look at it from the aspect of a coach, parent, or the athlete themself.


  • As a parent or role model, avoid practicing or enforcing strict diets. 

  • Avoid negative comments on the athlete's body or eating.

  • Talk to the athlete. Make sure they're doing well and check in with them consistently. 

  • If the athlete is trying to gain or cut weight help them achieve their goal in a healthy way.

  • Help the athlete gain a positive body image and make them feel safe enough to express their needs and concerns


  • Seek medical help

  • Get a nutritionist

  • Group or individual therapy

  • Support the athlete

  • Medications

  • Write down feelings and concerns in a journal

  • Stop or pause the  sport

  • Clinical trials

Types of Eating Disorders

Anorexia Nervosa: The person limits and or avoids food in all. Often the person has a distorted body image and fears gaining weight. This leads to malnutrition and severe weight loss.

Bulimia nervosa: A person may binge eat or regularly eat, however it is followed by either forcing themselves to throw up or taking laxatives. The food is removed from the body almost immediately, so no weight can be gained. 

Binge-eating: The person will binge their food. However, unlike bulimia nervosa there is no throwing up or having the food leave the body. This typically causes the person to be overweight.

Restrictive eating: The person will only eat certain foods, which leads to malnutrition and weight loss. It differs from anorexia because the person isn't entirely avoiding food, and often they do not fear gaining weight. 


  • Extreme weight loss or gain

  • Skipping meals

  • Obsession about food or calorie intake

  • Going to the bathroom after meals

  • Tooth decay

  • Use of dietary supplements

  • Use of laxatives

  • Talking negatively about their weight

  • Abdominal pain

  • Picky eating

  • Overeating 

  • Depression


  • Fatigue

  • Heart disease

  • Hair loss

  • Muscle/bone weakness

  • Kidney failure

  • Tooth decay

  • Depression

  • Diabetes

  • High/low BP

  • Dehydration

  • Amenorrhea

  • Osteoporosis

  • Growth problems

  • higher chance of substance abuse

  • Death


Coping | Eating Disorder (n.d.).

Mayo Clinic. (2018, February 22). Eating disorders - Symptoms and causes. Mayo Clinic; Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.

NIMH» Eating Disorders. (n.d.).

Click to learn more about eating disorders and treatments

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