Surveys suggest that 8 to 41% of athletes may struggle with binge/purge and bulimic eating behaviors. Many of these athletes with bulimia struggle alone, receiving no professional help for recovery. This article offers effective counseling strategies for nutrition professionals who want to help bulimic athletes. Through a case study of a triathlete who binges, and then purges through compulsive exercise, a nutrition care plan is discussed that addresses the food and weight concerns commonly expressed by athletes with bulimia. The priorities of the care plan are to reduce preoccupation with weight, establish a pattern of regular eating, and address the underlying causes of the binges. The case demonstrates that nutrition counseling is only one part of the treatment program, and emphasizes the importance of developing a team of health professionals to assist athletes with bulimia.
Nancy Clark is with SportsMedicine Brookline, 830 Boylston St., Brookline, MA 02167.