Personal Training: Ways to Tell Your Client is Suffering from or Headed Towards an Eating Disorder

Eating disorders are nasty things that infiltrate people’s minds to become daily, unwelcome guests. I have first hand experience with this. It took over my life for 1.5 years.

When I started to gain a little weight towards the end of this phase, I decided to go to a trainer in desperation. My mind was all messed up going through the recovery process alone (not recommended) and I wanted to remove the numbers I saw on the scale.

As the personal trainer was working with me on body fat testing ( I was 11% at the time) and figuring out exercise routines for me, she didn’t catch that I was struggling with an eating disorder. She probably didn’t know the signs. Not everyone can spot them.

All personal trainers should know about eating disorders if they will be advising people on things that relate to their health. This post will show some signs that a client may be struggling with them.

First, an extremely quick overview of eating disorders

Eating disorders are serious and can be fatal. They also do not discriminate- anyone can suffer with them. There are several different types which include the following:

1. Anorexia Nervosa- Involves an intense desire to lose weight. People who have anorexia will often starve themselves and exercise a lot.

2. Bulimia- Eating large amounts of food and then forcing themselves to vomit. They may also try to over-exercise to burn the calories they ate off.

3. Orthorexia- Obsession with eating only “healthy” foods.

4. Binge eating disorder- Eating large amounts of food and often.

Signs to look out for in your clients

Based on my personal experiences with an eating disorder (anorexia and exercise bulimia), I am familiar with the signs people with one or more of these conditions give off. Here is a list of some of them:

1. Excess weight loss: Your client losing an excessive amount of weight during the time that you are working with them is a red flag. This is especially true if the goal was to maintain weight and get stronger through weightlifting or lose weight the healthy way.

2. Excess Weight gain: The opposite of the last sign can also be a red flag. If weight gain is not the plan and they seem to be gaining at a fast pace, it is time to look into it more.

3. Obsessed with measurements: If a client comes to you demanding measurements right away and seems to get overly upset at the result, this is a problem. I had this issue. My low body fat percentage was still too much for me.

4. Food log anomalies: If you have your client keep a food log of their daily diet, make sure to check for discrepancies and problems. This could be that the amount of food is not matching up with their body composition/measurements or that the kinds food they are eating (if they are being honest) is troubling in some way.

5. Personality changes: If they start acting differently the more you work with them (seem moody, depressed, combative etc.), there might be something going on. It might not be an eating disorder but it is good to check and see if they are struggling with something.

6. No-shows and lateness: If your client is being late or failing to show up frequently, this could indicate a problem.

Are these right? Are there more signs?

So these are all of the signs that I could think of. Maybe I am totally off base with these. If I am please let me know. If you know of more signs that a client could be dealing with or headed towards an eating disorder, feel free to comment about that too!

#eatingdisorders #neda #anorexia #fitness #personaltraining

Thanks for reading!