Education Essays - Eating Disorders Education - Eating Disorders Among Athletes

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Eating Disorders Education

Eating disorders can be common among athletes. This may be due to the pressure of the sporting background that commonly precipitates the beginning of these problems. In this day and age certain obsessive behaviour such as extreme exercise and also erratic eating habits have become a normal part of society.

Williamson et al suggests that “Concern about an athletes body size and shape has become greater than ever before due to the pressure for thinness from coaches and also from athletic performance, and negative self appraisal of athletic achievement” It has been suggested that the majority of successful athletes are strong minded, and set almost impossible targets for themselves and work long hard hours to achieve these targets. However these factors can bring on eating disorders that can often be found in anorexia and bulimic patients.

Disordered eating is possibly found in most sporting activities. The athletes most at risk from developing or indeed having an eating disorder are those who engage in sports that require certain characteristics. For instance gymnasts and also figure skaters are under extreme and constant pressure to preserve a chid like body. Chaotic eating disorders are prevalent in girl athletes but not so much in boy athletes.

In 1992 the NCCA conducted a survey of athletes. The NCCA stated (“93% of the programs reporting eating disorders were in women's sports") ("Dying to win" 1994 suggests that ” Some male athletes do use extreme methods for losing weight, but an important difference exists between these and the self-starvation strategies of anorexics)” For instance, a weight lifter’s view of his body is not warped. When the weight lifter is not in competition he can regain the weight easily. This suggests that it is possible for the body to return to normal when the athletes sporting career comes to an end. But unfortunately this is not the case in females.

Eating disorders often happen to young girls who become obsessed with avoiding the progression of becoming a woman. These girls will go to extreme measures to keep a child like physic. This is what gymnastics are told they must do in order to stay in competition. Because of this it is a gymnastics biggest fear of developing a womanly shape that might obstruct their performance.

Sundgot-Borgen 1994 states that (” this could provoke a conflict in which an athlete struggles to prevent or counter the natural physical changes precipitated by growth and maturity”) many gymnasts have been training since early childhood. In taking part in such specific training before the body reaches maturity these girls risk losing out in a sport that they could do in adult hood when their gymnastic career ends.

The leading UK charity for people with eating disorders is called B-eat. This stands for beating eating disorders.

Beat surveyed 600 young people that suffer from an eating disorder’s-eat results were:

  • Only 1 percent of children felt they could talk to their parents about there eating related concerns.
  • 9 percent of children felt they might be able to talk to someone at school.
  • 17 percent of children felt they might be able to talk to a doctor or nurse
  • 92 percent of children felt they couldn’t tell anyone.

B-eat states that” currently the number of people receiving treatment for anorexia or bulimia to be near 90,000,while may more people have eating disorders undiagnosed”

If 92 percent of children feel that they could not tell anyone that they had an eating disorder then it is obvious that there is a need for young people to be educated about the dangers of eating disorders. There is also a need for counsellors or something similar to the Samaritans. So that children have the opportunity to talk about eating disorders to people who will not judge them. The will just listen and give advice if it is asked for.

Gymnasts more than most other athletes are aware about how their body image can mean winning or losing a competition. This is the main reason why gymnasts are more susceptible to eating disorders. The qualities that make a good gymnast such as high expectations, being compulsive and also striving to be the best are all key characteristics connected to eating disorders.

These statistics suggest that there is a need for a well being programme targeting female gymnasts of secondary school age. In beat’s survey 92% of children felt that they could not tell anyone that they have an eating disorder. In order to combat this discussion groups should take place on a monthly basis, as part of the gymnastic curriculum in local clubs such as the YMCA.The YMCA is part of the voluntary sector that rely mainly on good will donations and also club membership. It is a non-profit organisation.

Workshops are interactive activities could include the following areas:

Discussions & Activities on Self Esteem & Body Image: group discussion is a good way to get people to open up and discuss their ideas/feeling on the relevant subject. Open-ended questions tend to get the best response from people. Open-ended questions ask specific questions which cannot be answered with a simple "yes/no" or a specific piece of information.

Using a series of cards with different statements is a good way to help children open up and discuss their feeling. It is also a good way of getting children involved in self-esteem group activities.

Media litericy uses a “inquiry based instructional model” This model helps motivate people into asking questions in relation to what the see in the media whither they watch it or read it.Media literacy provides different means of assessment tools to help people look at the media and to help people become aware of one sided views in the media. Media Literacy can help provide people with greater perceptive of understanding the role of mass media and bias media in blocking views of reality.

Presentations are a good way of getting important information across to the audience 30mins; 45mins or 1hr presentations could be used, as the audience will be young teenagers.and may not have a long attention span that an adult would have. These presentations would include questions to/from the audience, but do not involve activities. For this reason they can be delivered to large numbers of students for example up to 50 at a time.

The following topics could be used in presentations:

Self Esteem & Body perception and Image: Body image and perception is how a person feels and views their physical appearance. A lot of young people, mainly in their early teens, suffer from low self –esteem This is because as children develop into adolescents, they become aware about how others see and perceive them.

Media Influences : In recent years it has become” politically correct” for the media to make some attempt to fight eating disorders. Magazines and TV shows and adverts featuring the misfortune of anorexia and bulimia, but this hardwork is proving to be unsuccessful when they are presented in the usual perspective. For instance, how can one think that a teenage magazine is actually motivated to beat eating disorders when the stories relatin to that area are covered by advertisements featuring childlike looking role models.

People often feel that the do not “measure up”this is down to the anxiety of trying to live up to idealistic “cultural expectations of physical body perfection.

BUPA suggests “Children and young people need to do 60 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity every day. This needs to include at least two weekly activities that produce high physical stress on bones, such as dancing, jumping or aerobics to aid development”.

(Muscat, 2002). Suggests”Another method that coaches, parents, (family) and athletes may use to help prevent disordered eating in sport is to avoid making critical comments about the female body.” Research shows that female athletes who report critical comments, compared with those who do not, also report greater disordered eating

Findings indicate that critical comments related to disordered eating behaviours are from multiple sources (Rieves & Cash, 1996) rather than limited to coaches and peers (Beals, & Manore, 1994; Berry & Howe, 2000; Sundgot-Boren, 1994; Williamson et al., 1995). In addition to comments from coaches and peers, female athletes reported critical comments from parents, grandparents, medical professionals, siblings, and teachers (Muscat, 2002)

Evaluation of the programme could be in the form of anonymous post cards that would be posted in a box. The cards would allow for comments and feedback both positive and negative, which will be curtail to the success of the programme and will allow for changes to be made if needed.

The media is partly to blame for placing a hudge importance on what a person looks like and also what size they are.The television and also glossy magazines continually flood our brains with images of body perfection and images of attractive perfect looking people.These messages motivate people into believing that in order to be successful you have to be good looking and slim.This media stereotyping is thought to be the cause why of only ten percent of men have eating disorders,while 90 percent are women.

Eating disorders are said to stem from addictive and compulsive behaviours.Other people who have the same or similar traits may turn to alchol,be drug users,self abuse or gamble.People who suffer from eating disorders also suffer from low self esteem,and also a lack of direction in life.This may be a reason why gymnasts are prone to eating disorders.They realise their careers will be over when they reach their mid 20s and do not know what their life will hold from them beyond then.

In 1992 Claire Vickery founded the butterfly foundation. In Australia. The foundation offers support to those people who suffer from an eating disorder and also poor or negative self body image. Claire was said to have discovered “gaps” in the” public health system” for the people who are and continue to suffer from eating disorders.

The butterfly foundation suggests that” there is more pressure than ever before on young people who are exposed to highly stylized & unrealistic images in the media at an alarming rate every day” This in turn can lead to thoughts of failure & unsafe expectations, resulting in little confidence & negative thoughts about body image.

The Butterfly Foundation can offer support to educational establishments and also local community groups in the structure of workshops & presentations to aid youngsters to develop their body image, self-esteem & media understanding.

The Eating Difficulties Education Network is another organisation that deals with eating disorders. EDEN is community service which is based in Auckland New zeland. The organisation is run by a group of women who can provide information and also assistance for those individuals who suffer from eating disorders, and also support their family and close ones. Eden can provide counselling and also workshops for Health professional, the community and also educational establishments. EDEN’s main focus is for the promotion of “body satisfaction” and takes the approach that you can be happy whatever your size may be.

EDEN works in two main areas. These being, working with the people who have eating problems and also working towards the prevention of eating disorders among young people. . EDEN states that” dieting is ineffective and potentially leads to weight and body image difficulties in all their forms. Aiming to work with individuals to develop body satisfaction and seek to create environments that are accepting of size diversity and which support body trust”.

Deviant Behaviour is a product of numerous interacting social and cultural forces. These include an inadequate socialisation process; lack of, or failure of social controls; perceived inequities in a situation; the individual’s definition of the situation; and the labelling of individuals who engage in deviance. More specifically, one learns deviant behaviour by directly and indirectly acquiring opportunities. McPherson et al. (1989)

Over conformity is behaviour that goes so far in following commonly accepted rules or standards that it interferes with the well being of self or others; it is behaviour grounded in an uncritical acceptance of the rules.

According to Coakley p.166 deviance grounded in overconformilty is often identified as an indication of commitment and dedication, even though it may be dangerous and have serious consequences for the health and well being of self and others.

According to ("Dying to win" 1994) a large percentage of gymnastic coaches are constantly instructing the girls on "how to count calories, how to act, what to wear, and what to say in public" As a result, the only aspect of their lives they can truly control is the food they put into their bodies. Furthermore, as role models to these girls, any comment made by their coaches is taken very seriously.

The reason so many of them even begin dieting is because their coach recommends that they lose weight. These athletes are so young and impressionable that such a recommendation may be seen as a requirement for improved performance.

Athletes, just like their more talented and money making peers are motivated by the belief that being a real athlete means taking risks, making sacrifices and paying the price to develop skills and stay in the game as long as possible.

A runner's achievement, for example, relies completely on speed and endurance. Even though a lean physique is important for performance in this sport, it does not determine which person is awarded first or second place. Instead, the winner is chosen according to the exact time they reach the finish line. Judging a gymnastics routine, however, is not as objective. Each judge assigns a score according to his or her own beliefs. Thus, the appearance of the performer may actually influence their perceptions and affect their ultimate decision.

A tragic example of the judges' power over these athletes is an incident with gymnast Christy Henrich--a top competitor of the late 1980's who died of a multiple organ failure due to her battle with bulimia and anorexia nervosa. At a meet in Budapest, a U.S. judge commented that Henrich would have to lose weight if she wanted to make the Olympic team.

Upon returning to the states, her mother recalls the first words out of her daughter's mouth: she was fat and she would have to lose weight--that was the only way she would reach her dreams. Because of these judges tough rules coakley p174 suggests that the roots of deviance go deeper than the individual desire to win or make money. These roots are rounded in the very values promoted through the sport ethnic itself. Therefore, much of the deviance in sports is most accurately identified as a social issue rather than just a personal problem of individual athletes.

Within sport, deviance involves violating the rules of a game or organisation, going beyond commonly accepted definitions of fair play and sportsmanship, and intentionally using illegal means to intimidate or injure an opponent (Eitzen, 1988). Much deviance has arisen because of the increased bureaucratisation and commercialisation of sport, more rules has resulted in greater pressure to win and earn a profit, and also because league officials are unable or unwilling to penalise all deviant acts.

To be born a man or a woman in any society is more than a simple biological fact. It is a biological fact with social implications. Women constitute a distinct social group, and the character of that group, long neglected by historians, has nothing to do with feminine "nature." "Gender" is the term now widely used to refer to those ways in which a culture reformulates what begins as a fact of nature. The biological sexes are redefined, represented, valued, and channelled into different roles in various culturally dependent ways.

According to John Berger (p.64) Styles of the female figure vary over time and across cultures: they reflect cultural obsessions in ways that are still poorly understood. Today, massiveness, power, or abundance in a woman's body is met with distaste.

The current body of fashion is firm, small-breasted, narrow-hipped, and of a slimness bordering on emaciation; it is a shape that seems more appropriate to an adolescent boy or a newly pubescent girl than to an adult woman. Since ordinary women have normally quite different dimensions, they must of course diet.

According to Health magazine, April 2002, 32% of female TV network characters are underweight, while only 5% of females in the U.S. audience are underweight. In contrast, actors who are older, frumpier, unkempt, perhaps physically challenged, portray evil, stupid, or buffoonish people. Many are fat. Again according to Health magazine, only 3% of female TV network characters are obese, while 25% of U.S. women fall into that category.

The differences between media images of happy, successful men and women are interesting. The women, with few exceptions, are young and thin. Thin is desirable, or so they are portrayed. The men are young or older, but the heroes and good guys are strong and powerful in all the areas that matter physically, in the business world, and socially.

For men in the media, thin are not desirable; power, strength and competency are desirable. Thin men are seen as skinny, and skinny men are often depicted as sick, weak, frail, drug addicted, criminal or deviant.

These differences are reflected in male and female approaches to self-help. When a man wants to improve himself, he often begins by lifting weights to become bigger, stronger, and more powerful. When a woman wants to improve herself, she usually begins with a diet, which will leave her smaller, weaker, and less powerful. Yet females have just as strong needs for power and control as do males.

Participation of sports has increased in females due to government equal rights legislation. Title IX was the first comprehensive federal law in America to prohibit sex discrimination against students and employees of educational institutions. Title IX benefits both males and females, and is at the heart of efforts to create gender equitable schools.

The law requires educational institutions to maintain policies, practices and programs that do not discriminate against anyone based on sex. Under this law, males and females are expected to receive fair and equal treatment in all arenas of public schooling: recruitment, admissions, educational programs and activities, course offerings and access, counselling, financial aid, employment assistance, facilities and housing, health and insurance benefits, marital and parental status, scholarships, sexual harassment, and athletics.

The Brighton declaration’s overriding aim is to develop a sporting culture that enables and values the full involvement of women in every aspect of sport.

Sport is a cultural activity, which, practiced fairly and equitably, enriches society and friendship between nations.

Sport is an activity which offers the individual the opportunity of self-knowledge, self-expression and fulfillment; personal achievement, skill acquisition and demonstration of ability; social interaction, enjoyment, good health and well-being. (The Brighton declaration)

Promotes involvement, integration and responsibility in society and contributes to the development of the community.

Sport and sporting activities are an integral aspect of the culture of every nation. However, while women and girls account for more than half of the world’s population and although the percentage of their participation in sport varies between countries, in every case it is less than that of men and boys.

It could be argued that despite growing participation of women in sport in recent years and increased opportunities for women to participate in domestic and international arenas, increased representation of women in decision making and leadership roles within sport has not followed. Women are significantly under-represented in management, coaching and officiating, particularly at the higher levels. Without women leaders, decision makers and role models within sport, equal opportunities for women and girls will not be achieved.

For many years, body fat has been seen as "bad". It is assumed that everyone can be thin. If a person is not thin, there must be something wrong with them. Fatness is seen something to be fixed, regardless of the cost. People who are fat are often stigmatised as being lazy and weak, with no willpower to control their eating.

In our society, the "cure" for fatness has often been to follow a strict diet or exercise plan until an "ideal" weight is reached. Success is defined by the amount of weight that is lost. The key word in this way of thinking is "control".

Popularised during the 1980s by Michel Foucault's work on discipline and sexuality, body criticism is distinguished most readily by a heavy, almost unthinking reliance on "The Body" as a category of analysis The female body, the labouring body, and the body of the other are the main figures in body criticism, which tends to think in terms of gender, class, and race, and which focuses on The Body's "social construction," a term that contains the following givens: that The Body acquires meaning only in a cultural context; that culture in turn finds in The Body a fine symbol of society; that the social construction of The Body is always refracted through uneven power relations that favour white, western, privileged men; that The Body makes those power relations seem natural and right; and that as a result the key to the historical oppression of women, the poor, the mad, the monstrous, and people of colour is written large on their bodies, in the meanings that have been ascribed to them and in the uniquely complex experiences that they have lived. Thus The Body emerges as a dramatic theoretical character capable of striking any number of poignant attitudes: there are, to name a very few, The Body in Pain, Unstable Bodies, Bodies Under Siege, Virtual Bodies, Recovering Bodies, Extraordinary Bodies, and Bodies That Matter.

However, it might be argued that this view of body weight does not seem to reflect reality. Over the past few years, the population has been getting larger, not thinner, even though almost 25% of Britons are dieting. In most cases, the weight lost while on a diet is regained within a year. Apparently, being thin is not as easy, or as "normal", as we have been led to believe.

In contrast, the new way of looking at weight recognizes that people come in many different shapes and sizes. It accepts that people are large for a variety of reasons, including because they are genetically programmed to be so. It is not possible for all people to be thin.

While it is true that excess body fat can increase the risk of disease such as heart disease and some cancers, it does not mean that being fat is unhealthy. Good health is possible at any body size. The new way of thinking encourages people to accept and understand their bodies.

Instead of strict diet and exercise plans designed to cause weight loss, the focus is on learning information and skills that help people to feel better and to improve the quality of their lives. People are invited to look at all their options and to set their goals based on what is right for them. They are taught to get in touch with their internal signals of hunger and fullness and to balance healthy eating with enjoyable physical activity.

According to the average body mass continues to increase in Western nations, people are becoming desensitized to obesity and view an increasingly larger amount of body fat as "normal" or "acceptable". People are especially likely to take cues on acceptable body size from their social circle, gaining weight concurrently with those around them A study by RMIT School of Health Sciences showed that obese teenagers and their parents were highly likely to underestimate their weight, "highlight[ing] the concern that overweight and obesity are now so common that they have become 'normalised'". In contrast with the common perception that Western culture is obsessed with thinness, these findings would suggest that individuals are typically less concerned with maintaining a lean, healthy weight than medical science recommends.

Many "curvy" American film stars from the early and mid-20th century are cited as inspirations by overweight women when, in reality, they were thin even by today's standards. Marylyn Monroe is said to have worn a size 16 dress. However, this fails to consider the Changes in American garment sizing over the last century. Monroe was 5'5", weighed 118 lbs and measured 36-24-34, which would make her approximately a women's size 2 by Modern American sizing standards. Similar misconceptions about the body sizes of classic sex icons may reinforce the idea that an overweight physique is healthy and appropriate.

Feminists criticise the excessive emphasis on body shape as part of women's Self image in Western society, and contend that an ample body shape is more typical of real women in the West than the ideal pushed by some parts of the Western media through depictions of extremely thin actresses andfashion models.

However, in media made predominantly by and for heterosexual men, such as video gamescomic books, entertainment, orpornography, a more buxom and curvaceous female ideal with large breasts, small waist and rounded hips is portrayed, one that is more in line with the sexual desires of men than those seen in the fashion or beauty industries.

Sociocultural studies highlight the role of cultural factors in the risk of anorexia in women, such as the promotion of thinness as the ideal female form in Western industrialised nations, particularly through the media. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica recently studyied 989,871 Swedish residents indicated that gender, ethnicity and social economic statuswere highly associated with the chance of developing anorexia, and women with non-European parents were among the least likely to be diagnosed, while women in wealthy, ethnic Swedish families were most at risk.

A classic study by Garner and Garfinkel demonstrated that those in professions where there is a particular social pressure to be thin (such as models and dancers) were much more likely to develop anorexia during their career, and further research suggests that those with anorexia have much higher contact with cultural sources that promote weight-loss.

Physorg states that anorexia nervosa is usually associated with Western cultures, exposure to Western media is thought to have led to an increase in cases in non-Western counties such as FiJi But other cultures may not display the same worries about becoming fat as those with the condition in the West, but instead may present with low appetite with the other common features.

In conclusion eating disorders can happen to anybody. It is prevalent in young teenage girls. Gymnasts, more than any other athletes, are more at risk to eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia. This may be due to the fact that gymnasts, especially the females, are put under constant pressure to maintain a certain body weight and mass for aesthetic presentation. Because of this there is a need to educate young teenage girls the dangers of having an eating disorder. Coakley states that deviance grounded in overconformilty is often identified as an indication of commitment and dedication, even though it may be dangerous and have serious consequences for the health and well being of self and others.

These gymnasts believe that the have to be the thinnest to be at the top of their game. Their coaches reinforce this idea. According to ("Dying to win" 1994) a large percentage of gymnastic coaches are constantly instructing the girls on "how to count calories, how to act, what to wear, and what to say in public" As a result, the only aspect of their lives they can truly control is the food they put into their bodies. Furthermore, as role models to these girls, any comment made by their coaches is taken very seriously.

The media is another reason why young girls are becoming thinner and developing eating disorders at the vulnerable age. According to Health magazine, April 2002, 32% of female TV network characters are underweight, while only 5% of females in the U.S. audience are underweight. In contrast, actors who are older, frumpier, unkempt, perhaps physically challenged, portray evil, stupid, or buffoonish people. Many are fat. Again according to Health magazine, only 3% of female TV network characters are obese, while 25% of U.S. women fall into that category. According to b—eat’s survey survey of 600 young people with eating disorders 92% of children felt that they could not tell anybody. This suggests that there are a large number of children that need help and also someone to talk to and discuss their feelings in relation to eating disorders.

The butterfly foundation in Australia and also EDEN in Auckland are both non-profit organisations that help young girls combat eating disorders. Both organisations offer support and counselling. Through different means of evaluation such as presentations to schools on the dangers of eating disorders. By following a programme similar to both the butterfly foundation and also Eden Britain can begin to tackle the growing problem of eating disorders among young females before the situation becomes out of hand.


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