#145: What You Need To Know About Preventing Disordered Eating In Female Athletes w/ Sports Dietician Lindsey Cortes

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Did you know? Disordered eating is a serious problem for many female athletes. In fact, statistics show that disordered eating impacts 62% of female athletes. This can have a devastating impact on their physical and mental health, as well as their athletic performance.

As a sports mom, you know that your daughter’s physical and mental health are vital to her success in sports.  So, you must be wondering: What exactly is disordered eating? And how do you prevent it? That’s what we’re here to discuss!

In this episode, we have Lindsay Cortez, a registered sports dietitian, joining us to discuss everything you need to know about disordered eating – including how to prevent it. Let’s dive in!

What is Disordered Eating?

First, let’s start by answering the question: What is disordered eating?

Disordered eating includes a broad range of behaviors, including restricted diets, following unproven diet trends (i.e. intermittent fasting), excessive focus on “clean” eating, and strict avoidance of certain food groups. These practices can have a negative impact on one’s physical health, emotional health, sports performance, and even financial stability.

Disordered eating should be taken seriously because it may progress into a full-blown eating disorder over time. It involves thoughts and actions related to food that limit a person’s life and potentially harm their overall well-being. To avoid further harmful outcomes, it’s critical to address disordered eating.

If you suspect your athlete daughter is struggling with disordered eating, it’s important to seek help from medical and mental health professionals specializing in eating disorders. They can provide the right diagnosis, treatment, and support tailored to her specific needs.

Preventing Disordered Eating in Female Athletes: Tips and Reminders

So, how do you prevent disordered eating in female athletes? Here are some tips and reminders from Lindsay:

Tip #1: Focus on what’s healthy, instead of pointing out what’s unhealthy.

Instead of pointing out what’s unhealthy, shift the focus towards what’s healthy. Encourage your daughter to incorporate nutritious foods into her diet, such as vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, and whole grains. Instead of criticizing her choices, express enthusiasm for her healthy meals and snacks.

Tip #2: Be curious.

Talk to your daughter and have sincere, non-judgmental conversations about her eating habits. Ask if she feels hungry throughout the day and if she’s satisfied with her meals. By understanding her perspective, you can identify any potential issues or triggers that may lead to disordered eating behaviors.

Tip #3: Ask them how they’re feeling.

Connected to the previous tip, ask your daughter how she’s feeling. This allows her to express her emotions and opens up the opportunity for discussion. Understanding her emotional state can give you some insight into her eating habits and help you support her effectively.

 Also, you should consider bringing in someone else to talk to them. Despite parents’ best intentions, sometimes, children are more receptive to advice from other individuals, especially if they’re professionals (i.e. a nutritionist or coach). Another advantage of this is that athletes do benefit from professional education, as they may not receive enough information in school. So, by introducing someone else to teach and guide your daughter, you can provide her with the necessary knowledge and have meaningful conversations about nutrition and its importance for athletes. This can help bridge any gaps in their knowledge, while also reinforcing the messages you’ve been conveying as a parent.

Tip #4: Be a role model

As a parent, it’s important you lead by example. Be your child’s role model when it comes to healthy eating habits. How? Incorporate a variety of healthy foods into your own meals and snacks. But, you should also allow yourself and your daughter to enjoy occasional treats. Show her that all foods can fit into a balanced diet, and emphasize the importance of moderation and self-care.

Tip #5: Seek professional guidance

If you suspect that your daughter may be at risk for disordered eating, or if you need additional support, don’t hesitate to consult with a registered dietitian or healthcare professional who specializes in sports nutrition.

Final Thoughts

Preventing disordered eating in female athletes require a supportive and proactive approach. By focusing on what’s healthy, engaging in non-judgmental conversations, checking up on their emotional well-being, being a positive role model, and seeking professional help when needed, you can help your daughter develop a healthy relationship with food and support her overall well-being as she pursues her athletic goals.

Remember, your support and understanding are crucial in nurturing a positive body image and promoting long-term health in your daughter.

Episode Highlights: 

[2:04] What is disordered eating and how can you help your athlete overcome it?

[7:03] How do we fuel the body for athletic performance??

[12:05] What’s the difference between male and female hormones?

[16:41] Is there an optimal timing of how often our female athletes should be eating?

[22:00] What is disordered eating in the first place?

[24:36] What is bulimia? What is a binge eating disorder?

[30:44] When you limit yourself, you’re limiting yourself physically and mentally.

[35:39] All foods fit and all foods can be good.

[40:02] As moms, how do we balance and walk the line between pointing out what is healthy and what is not healthy?


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