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Is Fitness Causing Disordered Eating?

Ultimate Sandbag fitness equipment

One of the good parts about blogging for so long is that you can bring in topics that you believe are important even though they may not be what you typically discuss in training. That is why when I do such things I look to bring in experts and with a topic today I know that having someone REALLY well educated and experienced on this topic is big! It was that my motivation to bring in nutritionist Leslie Schilling.

Why did I want to bring someone on today’s blog that has a background working with professional sports teams, national organizations, a national level speaker, and most importantly someone who works a lot with eating disorders? Well, I wanted to share how I have seen fitness being the cause of a lot of unhealthy habits when it comes to trying to help people.

Listen, I have been in this industry for over 25 years, I don’t blame fitness pros, we do largely what we are told is the “right thing”. We have clients that even though we know we shouldn’t be doing too much in the area of nutrition (it technically is out of the scope of a fitness professional to recommend diets) that the people we are working with want us to tell them something. EVEN if it means temporarily they lose weight, we still can be doing damage that we are unaware of and even many of us in the industry may have issues we haven’t recognized.

In fact, this 2013 study found, “We examine whether weight-loss diets lead to improved cholesterol, triglycerides, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and fasting blood glucose and test whether the amount of weight lost is predictive of these health outcomes. Across all studies, there were minimal improvements in these health outcomes, and none of these correlated with weight change.” (Long-term Effects of Dieting: Is Weight Loss Related to Health?)

disordered eating

If you think this was a fluke, this 2015 study said something similar…”The dominant weightloss solution to this “obesity problem” encourages individuals to lose weight through behavior change. This solution rests on the assumptions that higher body weight causes health problems, that permanent weight loss is attainable, and that weight loss improves health. But comprehensive reviews of the scientific evidence find mixed, weak, and sometimes contradictory evidence for these premises.We suggest that a different solution to the “obesity problem” is needed – a solution that acknowledges both the multifaceted nature of health and the complex interaction between person and situation that characterizes the connection between weight and health.” (Weight Loss Is Not the Answer: A Well-being Solution to the “Obesity Problem”)

What can and should be doing? There are more and more organizations in the industry trying to help coaches understand better knowledge about what being overweight is, the causes, the implications, and how to help people truly live healthier lives. For example…

Guidelines for marketing and advertising messages that encourage physical activity, without encouraging disordered eating and exercise

disordered eating

  • Messages should focus on health, not weight, and be delivered from a holistic perspective with equal consideration given to social, emotional and physical health
  • Weight is not a behaviour and therefore not an appropriate target for behaviour modification; services should focus only on modifiable behaviours (e.g. physical activity, eating habits, time spent watching TV)
  • People of all sizes deserve a nurturing environment and will benefit from a healthy lifestyle and positive self-image
  • The ideal client support is integrated, addresses risk factors for the spectrum of weight-related problems, and promotes protective behaviours
  • Client services should honour the role of families and carers and support them to model healthy behaviours at home without overemphasising weight
  • Community members should be included in the planning process to ensure that facilities and services are sensitive to diverse norms, cultural traditions and practices
  • It is important that specific intervention programs are evaluated by qualified health care providers and/or researchers, who are familiar with the research on risk factors for eating disorders

Modified from: National Eating Disorders Collaboration, (2015). Eating Disorders in Sport and Fitness: Prevention, Early Identification and Response, 2nd Edition, NSW. Australia. (you can check out the whole information HERE)

My hope is that this is something that you will want to learn more about and seek out if our goal is truly make a difference in people’s lives.

Listen To The Audio HERE

You can follow Leslie on Instagram HERE