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Disordered Eating

The term 'disordered eating' refers to a range of behaviours, including:

  • restrictive eating
  • binge eating
  • purging of food
  • obsessive thoughts about food and body image.

Disordered eating often stems from a combination of biological, psychological, sociocultural, and environmental factors.

Participants with eating problems often feel pressures around their weight, body shape, sporting performance and appearance.

Follow our learner journey to find out more about disordered eating, and how you can best support participants with eating problems.

"It started out so innocently just trying to lose weight for me to achieve my dream of becoming a professional athlete… I feel sad now to think that my dream got taken over by the eating disorder."

Rebecca Quinlan 

Understanding Problem Eating

Signs and Symptoms of Eating Problems


Have a go

Download the eight myths and have a conversation or game with your participants to find out how much they know about eating problems.


Promoting a Positive Coaching Environment

Did you know...

  • 40% of sports participants show signs of disordered eating.
  • 1:5 female athletes experience an eating disorder during their sporting career.
  • 1:12 male athletes experience an eating disorder during their sporting career.

It's your responsibility to be a positive role model for your participants. Encourage a positive atmosphere and demonstrate the kind of behaviour that you want to see.

It can be challenging to identify eating problems and signs of disordered eating, as people can be secretive and hide their habits.

Additionally, many of the behaviours associated with disordered eating are seen as desirable and normal for participants: considering what they eat and having a diet plan within the training enviornment are often considered to show commitment.

This creates an additional challenge when trying to 'notice' when this behaviour becomes problematic.

Promoting Positive Messages around Food, Weight and Shape


Disordered Eating: Language in the Training and Competition Environment


Navigating Change: Transitions and Eating Problems


Moving From Passive to Active Coach

When starting conversations about disordered eating, it's vital to create a supportive and judgement-free environment. 'Labelling' or shaming participants will just make the problem worse.

Compassion, empathy, and understanding can make a significant difference when supporting individuals to seek help and through their recovery.

Disordered eating is a serious concern and demands serious consideration because it isn't normal or healthy. It can have serious physical, psychological, and emotional consequences.

Early intervention is important: seeking help early can be crucial for individuals with eating problems.

Support from healthcare professionals and treatment can help:

  • address underlying issues
  • normalise eating behaviours
  • improve overall well-being.

Disordered Eating: A Coach’s Role in Identifying and Supporting Participants with Eating Problems


To Weigh or not to Weigh: The Challenges of Weight Monitoring


The Travelling Athlete: Planning Food for Athletes on the Move


Menstruation Shorts: What is Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport?


How to Start Conversations About the Menstrual Cycle



Is weight management an important factor in your sport?

Do you discuss weight management with your participants?

If you do, how do you ensure within your organisation that it's discussed sensitively, with a focus on performance?

Remember: consider the individual first and foremost and implement a safe weight monitoring process.


These messages and guidance should be accompanied by the understanding that each individual's experience with disordered eating is unique and personal, and that seeking a healthcare professional is necessary for proper support, assessment, diagnosis, and treatment.