Anorexia Nervosa

Previously, we have seen how the pressures in the life of an athlete especially that of the females, can lead to eating disorders which, if unchecked, can lead to dangerous complications one of which is Anorexia Nervosa. We are already briefed on the prime factors that lead to this dreaded condition but how do we recognize the presence of such a case in our loved ones? The reason it is difficult to pinpoint the problem right from the initial stages is because it usually affects the people whose lifestyle demand a lean body and restricted diet so their strict diet plans and body slenderness are not an alarming cause of concern. There are, however, signs and symptoms that you can look out for because anorexic athletes do show signs of a self – distorted image of themselves and have a somewhat unreasonable fear of gaining weight. They will most probably deny that they have a problem but it is obvious to the observant eye that they are suffering; it takes a toll on their day to day lives, their relationships and even steals away their joy. Their stress over food, weight and body takes up most of their time and they lose interest in everything else making them conservative and depressed. So although difficult to spot at first, as anorexia progresses it will leave trails of signs that you will definitely not miss.

Signs and Symptoms


When it comes to eating habits, anorexic athletes will show the following symptoms:-

  • Despite already being thin and lean, they will still diligently (almost to the point of harshness) follow an extremely strict diet which will more often than not be a combination of very low caloric foods. Carbohydrates and fats are, of course, out of the question. They might interpret a coach’s advice to maintain a lean body for enhanced performance to mean, “Be on a constant weight loss diet”.
  • You will often hear excuses from them to skip meals like “a huge lunch” you never saw them eating but which they claim they did, most probably “outside”. Hiding food to make it look like they’re eaten it, playing with food or throwing it, are some of the warning signs that you are living with an anorexic. They will, however, be drinking plenty of water.
  • They are constantly thinking about food and then feeling ashamed thereafter, convincing themselves that they’re not hungry, and immediately resuming their workout or training.
  • They start to develop a sort of ritualistic way of eating – chewing and spitting out, eating from a specific plate, eating alone and avoiding eating at public places.

Appearance and body image are also very crucial factors in defining an anorexic patient.

  • There is sudden or drastic weight loss without the person suffering from any illness.
  • No matter how lean their body has become, it is still not enough. They still feel big despite being underweight.
  • They are constantly making trips to the front of the mirror, checking for flaws and always finding something to criticize about their looks.
  • They will, most definitely, deny that they’re underweight dignifying their denial by saying things like, “My performance has gotten so much better! Would I be able to do that if something was wrong with me?”

Anorexic Types

While most anorexics follow an unnecessarily strict diet plan, consuming only low caloric foods, there are those who succumb to their appetite and want for food. The former is the Restricted Type. The latter caves into food, only to regret after eating, whether it is a snack, a normal meal or binge – eating. They then take to exercising immediately afterwards and vomiting. This is called the Binge – eating/ Purging Type, which is the most dangerous kind of eating disorders.


How Can You Help?

The first thing and the best thing you can do is support your friend, family member or a close one suffering from the symptoms mentioned above. Encourage them and talk to them but tread lightly because you are sure to meet a lot of defensiveness and denial. Condescension will not help. Just voice your concerns gently and, if they are willing to talk, listen patiently without judgment even if they speak unreasonably because the most crucial step is this – making sure they know that they are not alone and that they need help.

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