By: Amanda Feldman
Amanda Feldman is a graduate student in Boston University’s Nutrition and Dietetics program pursuing her RDN credential with a special interest in sports nutrition and eating disorders. Outside of the classroom, she is a high school Varsity Softball and Cross Country coach at the Dana Hall School in Wellesley, MA, where she graduated before continuing on to play 2 years of collegiate softball at Trinity College in Hartford, CT. In her free time, Amanda is an avid long-distance runner and is passionate about sharing her love for running, athletics, and nutrition education.
Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses that come in all shapes and sizes.1 Male-identifying and female-identifying. Those in larger and smaller bodies. They can occur in runners, football players, soccer players, dancers, fencers and everything in between.
As a former athlete and a current high school coach myself, I am aware of the unique role coaches play in an adolescent athlete’s life. We act as role models, mentors, and individuals our athletes are trying to impress. In some cases, the internal pressure to impress a coach is so high our athletes will do anything and everything asked of them to get on the field, be a starter, become a captain, or earn a coach’s respect. Because of this, everything from the way coaches talk about goal setting, fueling and food, athletes’ bodies, and body changes can have a profound impact on an athlete – be that positive or negative.
Some individuals have a predisposition that puts them at a higher risk for developing an eating disorder. Eating disorders are “complex traits,” and multiple environmental and genetic factors play a role in their development.1 This includes individual’s genetics, past experiences, societal pressures, traumas, and other mental health diagnoses to name a few factors. It is hard for us to identify exactly who is at high risk for developing one, but what we do know is that adolescence is a vulnerable period,2 one in which eating disorders too commonly manifest. This is why we need to place high importance on eating disorder prevention.