Getting "Fit" for School Sports: When Is It Too Much?

Posted on 09/03/15 02:51:pm

The start of the school year is quickly approaching and so are tryouts for fall sports teams. However busy this time of year always seems to be for many families, it’s important to take a moment away from the rush of the school year and make sure your student isn’t participating in disordered eating or exercising behavior due to pressure from their peers or athletics.

Sports such as ballet, gymnastics, wrestling, football and others may become centered on your student-athlete’s weight, especially when a championship or scholarship is on the line. When this pressure to be thin manifests, your child’s sport develops into a risk factor which may increase their chances of developing an eating disorder. What is commonly confused by many athletes is the difference between physical fitness and thinness. It’s important to have a conversation with your child and reassure them that a person’s fat content is not the sole measurement of their physical ability or health.

One sign that your child may be excessively concerned about their physical appearance or physical ability may be that they are over-exercising or trying to hide their exercising from you. For example, it would be excessive for your child to judge their self-worth on the amount of time they spend exercising per day, insist that they continue to exercise even if they are injured or plan obligations with their friends around their exercise schedule. When your child’s exercising begins to take over their regular functioning or activities they once enjoyed, it may be cause for concern and time to seek out professional help.

Are some children more at risk than others for developing an eating disorder? Yes, if your child was teased at school or was overweight as a young child, they have an increased risk of developing an eating disorder in their adolescent years.

Anorexia nervosa, or anorexia, most commonly occurs during adolescence or young adulthood. This disorder typically emerges during a stressful time in a person’s life, such as leaving for college, transitioning into the responsibilities of adulthood or being bullied at school.

If you didn’t already have a reason to have regular family meals at home, it would be helpful to do so in order to safely monitor your child’s eating habits. For example, frequently using the bathroom after a meal may indicate that your child is purging, or participating in self-induced vomiting. This negative eating habit allows your child to appear healthy by fully-participating in the meal, but they aren’t actually consuming the calories that their developing body needs to grow. Be aware that uncontrollable eating episodes or chewing food and then spitting it out are also signs of an eating disorder.

In conclusion, it’s vital to be an active participant in your child’ school year and to take notice to their exercising and eating habits. You know your child better than anyone else does and are more likely to spot unusual or unsafe behavior from the beginning.

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