Eating Disorders and the Olympics
The Olympics may be over but many children, pre-teens and adolescents have caught that Olympic fever! Parents are enrolling their aspiring Olympians at gyms, dance studios and swim teams all across the country. In order to participate in these activities, a form signed by the pediatrician is usually required. The emphasis on achieving a lean, muscular body can be complicated by an eating disorder. The DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition) published by the American Psychiatric Association defines eating disorders as a change in food intake that can impact our physical and our mental health.
The most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, and binge eating disorders. Another disorder that has become prevalent is called avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder, which basically involves cutting out or limiting food, which parents may recall as “the crash diet.” Would be Olympians and growing bodies need fuel to perform at optimum levels. If you suspect an eating disorder you may notice that the amount of calories burned will more than make up for the amount of calories consumed.
Perhaps you notice your child’s weight dropping along with a change in their food habits. Our pediatric providers will perform screening tests to help determine if an eating disorder exists.
Testing for Eating Disorders
There are three tests currently available, they are known as SCOFF, the Eating Disorder Screen for Primary Care and the Eating Attitudes Test. In preparation for the screening, parents can familiarize themselves with these tests, which consist of questionnaires before the office visit. The questions revolve around food and the child or teenagers’ attitudes toward eating. SCOFF has five questions and is an acronym that stands for Sick, Control, One stone (in relation to weight), Fat and Food. The pediatrician will ask if food is making the patient Sick, and are they losing Control around food? In addition, they will determine if the amount of weight lost is more than One stone (14 pounds) over a three month period and is their perception of themselves as Fat? Finally, the doctor will ask if Food has taken over their lives?
The second test, Eating Disorder Screen for Primary Care, is also five questions. Again, it centers around the person’s relationship toward food. Eating in secret is explored, and also if gaining and losing weight is the main focus of their life. It also explores their history to see if anyone else in the family has this problem.
The third test, the Eating Attitudes Test (EAT), has 26 questions and is 90% accurate. This test, which was first developed in 1979, looks at the behaviors associated with food. Originally it was called EAT-40 and had 40 questions but has been revamped as the EAT-26. Scoring 20 out of 26 questions indicates an eating disorder.
Wanting to become a potential Olympian is a goal worth exploring for the child or teen athlete. If taken to an extreme, the risk for their developing an eating disorder in the quest for the perfect body increases dramatically. If you have any concerns that your child or teenager may be facing an eating disorder, the pediatric providers at Rainbow Pediatrics can schedule an assessment. Please call 910-486-5437 to schedule their appointment.