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UK Coaching Team
Safety and Welfare Supporting Specific Needs

Signs and Symptoms of Eating Problems in Physical Activity and Sport Participants

In the first part of a series exploring disordered eating, Dr Carolyn Plateau, Senior Lecturer in Psychology from Loughborough University, and Dr Sebastian Sandgren explore the common signs and symptoms in participants which may suggest a potential eating problem

Eating problems can present in lots of different ways in our participants. 

It is important that coaches and the wider coaching team can spot and look out for the signs and symptoms that may indicate an eating problem. 

Eating problems don’t necessarily present with sudden, extreme weight loss. Symptoms are often more subtle and develop over time.

Key changes to lookout for include:

  • changes to participant eating behaviour, 
  • their overall well-being and mood, 
  • increased vulnerability towards illness and injury, 
  • and changes in exercise attitudes and behaviours. 

These can present in participants of all shapes and sizes.


Have you noticed any of these signs or symptoms of eating problems in your participants?

Which do you think are the easiest, or most difficult symptoms for you to identify in your participants?

How would/did you feel if you spotted some of these symptoms in your participants? What would you do next? 



How confident do you feel in identifying participants who might be struggling with eating problems?


Learn more about Disordered Eating

Improve your knowledge and understanding of eating problems so you have the confidence to identify issues and react appropriately if you have concerns about an athlete.

View the full seven-part series

Discounted Online Course

To learn more about supporting participants with eating disorders complete the CIMPSPA and CPD UK-accredited online course from Loughborough University. Subscribe to access a 51% discount on the course.

Find Out More

Related Resources

  • Information Sheet on Eating Disorders

  • Detecting and Understanding Disordered Eating

  • Menstruation Shorts: What is Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport?


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