Evidence-Based Comprehensive Psychological, Nutritional and Medical Care

Recommendations for Treatment of Athletes with Eating Disorders

Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms of Eating Disorders in Athletes

  • Weight loss/resistance to regain/weight lower than necessary for adequate sport performance
  • Poor body image
  • Excessive training
  • Vomiting after eating
  • Binge eating
  • Restrictive/rigid eating
  • Fainting, dizziness, dehydration
  • Amenorrhea
  • Fatigue beyond that normally expected in training or competition
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Muscle weakness
  • Overuse injuries/stress fractures

When to Refer an Athlete for Intensive Eating Disorder Treatment*

  • Weight is less than 85% of expected weight based on height.
  • Caloric intake is quite low, and the athlete continues to resist increasing caloric intake.
  • Symptoms are worsening over time, and the athlete’s health is compromised.
  • The athlete trains/exercises excessively despite injury or prohibitions from medical and training staffs.
  • The athlete is engaging in self-harming behaviors and/or has suicidal thoughts.
  • Psychiatric/psychological symptoms (i.e., depression, anxiety, etc.) prevent progress.
  • Progress is not made on an outpatient basis after 6 weeks of treatment.
  • The athlete has potentially serious medical complications (i.e., bradycardia, prolonged QT interval, electrolyte abnormalities, syncope, etc.).

*Intensive treatment for athletes and eating disorders typically involves at least 8 hours per day for at least 5 days per week, usually for a period of weeks.

Treating Eating Disorders: Anorexia  •   Bulimia  •   Binge Eating  •   Emotional Eating  •   Compulsive Exercising

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