Eating disorders, sports and exercise

Are you worried about gaining weight? Do you feel fat and dissatisfied with your body? Are you trying to control your weight by being very careful about what you eat? Do you train too much? Are there days when you are constantly preoccupied with food? If this apply to you, you may be suffering from an eating disorder. Eating disorders have been reported to be about ten times more common among elite athletes than in the normal population. This also applies to men where the prevalence in elite sports is as high as among girls and women in the normal population. Examples of sports where eating disorders are overrepresented are aesthetic sports (e.g., gymnastics and figure skating), endurance sports (e.g., orienteering, long distance running, swimming, cross-country skiing) and that are sensitive to weight change or have weight classes (ski jumping, wrestling, weightlifting, wrestling, and all sports with weight classes).

Eating disorders are commonly misinterpreted by coaches, other athletes, and parents as highly motivated training behaviors. An athlete who trains more than others, and always has the highest training load can in fact be stuck in an eating disorder and / or compulsive training behavior. Do you feel that you have your own rules for your training? Do you find it difficult to allow yourself to eat sufficiently? Are you often ill, injured, have irregular periods, are depressed or anxious? Are you worried about your weight? If yes, a structured assessment may be needed where the sport career is also considered. Dr. Klara Edlund has extensive experience in working with elite athletes, on all levels, all the way up to the Olympic level. Training and career goals are always integrated as a natural part of the evaluation. If necessary, evidence-based treatment with CBT can be offered.

Low Energy Availability – with or without a concurrent eating disorder
Low energy availability has to do with insufficient energy intake in relation to energy expenditure. It may sound like simple math, but can often be much more complicated. The consequence of energy deficiency is semi-starvation, which can cause significant health problems. It is important to remember that it is common among elite female athletes to have an energy intake that is too low.

The reason for this may vary, it can be a deliberate reduction of your energy intake to enhance your performance, you may have an eating disorder, or you may simply not be aware that you need to adjust your energy intake in relation to your energy expenditure (you may have increased the amount of exercise but adjusted your energy intake).

Low energy availability may lead to impaired performance and concentration, hormonal changes, menstrual dysfunction, and impaired bone health. Injuries (e.g., stress fractures), infections and gastrointestinal problems are common. The consequences of low energy availability can persist for many years. It can be important to remember that energy deficiency is common in normal-weight and overweight athletes as well as underweight. Low energy availability can, in addition to the physical symptoms, lead to depression, anxiety, sleep problems and preoccupation with food and weight. The help you may need for energy deficiency may be due to various factors where eating disorder is one of them. Here you can get help to assess your symptoms and evaluate if you have problems with low energy availability solely, or if you also suffer from an eating disorder (including excessive / perfectionist / compulsive exercise behavior).

Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S) is a syndrome commonly discussed with in the sport medicine community. RED-S includes symptoms such as disturbed eating behaviors / weight loss, irregular periods, and skeletal injuries (stress fractures). The combination of these symptoms is common in elite athletes.

Dr. Klara Edlund delivers individualized psychological treatment with CBT, address and evaluate symptoms related to training, health and the elite sport environment. Furthermore, services for support in the training environment and at competitions can be arranged along with issues related to the harshness of scaling down or terminating an athlete’s career.