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Eating Disorders: Helping Specific Clients

12 February, 2016 | In: Nutrition

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week is an international event which tackles some of the myths and misunderstandings surrounding eating disorders. The annual event takes place between 22nd and 28th February, with the aim of raising awareness about anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder.

The Facts

According to a 2015 report by the charity Beat, more than 725,000 people in the UK are affected by an eating disorder. As a Personal Trainer, it’s possible that you will work with a client who’s had an eating disorder in the past. It’s helpful to understand the various different types of eating disorders, so you can help with your client’s recovery.

Men and women of all ages and backgrounds can develop an eating disorder, but young women aged 15 to 25 are most likely to be affected. A person with an eating disorder will have an abnormal attitude towards food, and a fear of gaining weight. They will change their eating habits and behaviour, often becoming obsessive about what they eat and how much they exercise.

Understanding

The most common eating disorders are: anorexia nervosa, when a person starves themselves or exercises excessively; bulimia, when a person binge eats and then deliberately makes themselves sick or uses laxatives, and binge eating disorder when a person excessively overeats. It’s important to remember that eating disorders are mental health conditions. If you’re concerned about a client it’s important that they seek the help of a medical professional.

Causes

The causes of eating disorders differ for each person, but they can include low self-esteem, bereavement, high expectations at school or university, abuse, or long-term illness or disability. The person may feel under pressure and unable to cope, or see themselves as being fat and not good enough.

Working with Eating Disorders

When you’re working with clients who have had an eating disorder it’s essential they have the go-ahead from their GP. Your client will need to be both physically and mentally strong. As well as being a healthy weight, they should be eating a balanced diet. When you work with them, you need to encourage a sensible approach to eating and exercise. Create a training schedule that includes a variety of exercises, but isn’t too demanding. Talk to your client about the importance of rest and recovery.

Exercise can help in recovery by making it about the health benefits rather than weight control. Promote exercise as a way to relax and have fun. Encourage your client to try a variety of exercises, both indoors and out. Make sure nothing is too repetitive, and that each session is different. This will help keep it fun and won’t lead to obsessive exercising, where they spend hours cycling or running. Exercises such as yoga, Pilates and tai chi can help your client relax and connect their mind and body. Again, variety is essential.

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