As many of you know, this is [American] National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, “an annual campaign to bring public attention to the critical needs of people with eating disorders and their families.”
As a body-positive fitness professional, this is a matter near and dear to my heart. I speak with people on a daily basis about issues relating to their body image and self esteem, have multiple friends who are in different stages of recovery from eating disorders, and have a personal history with disordered eating.
I eschew the tenets of diet culture and reject the premise of aesthetic-focused goals for training.
I am as conscious of keeping an eye out for warning signs of over-training and exercise addiction—and the concurrent need for messages of gentleness and balance—as I am of signs that someone might be in need of greater motivation.
And yet… I am also aware of the limits of my scope of practice as a personal trainer.
I am grateful that the National Strength and Conditioning Association (from whom I earned and received my personal trainer certification) does include a significant amount of information about eating disorders in their textbook Essentials of Personal Training; I am disheartened to report that some other organizations do not so much as mention eating disorders throughout their entire textbooks for personal trainer candidates.
So, yes, I have studied eating disorders… but not on the level that a Registered Dietitian or other medical professional who specializes in nutrition would. I am not qualified to diagnose or treat eating disorders.
And, for what it’s worth, neither is any personal trainer unless they also have an additional relevant degree (such as being a licensed nutritionist or registered dietitian)!
(According to the aforementioned Essentials of Personal Training, “It is well within the personal trainer’s scope of practice to address misinformation and to give general advice related to nutrition for physical performance… [but r]eferral to a nutrition professional is indicated when the client has a disease state (i.e., diabetes, heart disease, gastrointestinal disease, eating disorder, osteoporosis, elevated cholesterol, etc.) that is affected by nutrition.” If any of these are true for you and a personal trainer tries to put you on a nutrition plan… run! This is a red flag that they do not observe the limits of their scope of practice, and you deserve to work with a professional who honors and respects their profession.)
What I am qualified to do is to observe, care for, and empathize with others, and then to make referrals as necessary to qualified professionals.
Throughout the week, I will make several short posts related to eating disorder awareness, including myths about eating disorders and various resources that are available if you are concerned that you or a loved one may have an eating disorder. Because of the limits of my experience and my scope of practice, much of this will be quoted material, and all such material will be linked to its source.
One exception will be that I will, sometime before the end of the week, to write up something clear and accessible about my own history with orthorexia, which obviously will not be quoted from anywhere else. I have not written much about these experiences, and I feel a bit vulnerable just thinking about it… but I will do my best in the hopes that it will be of some comfort and benefit to others.
In the meantime, please click over to the National Eating Disorder Association’s quick three-minute screen, and share the link with your friends and family members, too: as their site states, this screen “is not diagnostic, but can help to determine if it is time to seek professional help.”
And please… if you do need help, seek it out. With love and without shame. You are precious, and you deserve health!