ACED (Athletic Community vs. Eating Disorders) fills a need that merges the eating disorder and athletic communities.
The founder, Sloane Green, is a Marriage and Family Therapy Trainee (OH), writer, mother, and mental health advocate.
Before all that, though, she was an athlete who had developed an eating disorder as well as an exercise compulsion. Throughout the time of struggling with it and working to recover, she realized that there is a huge gap in the eating disorder and athletic communities to find information about it. The information and care she received was geared more toward the general public – without the added layer of exercising to be elite, eating adequately for performance, identity in sport, and more.
It’s true that eating disorders are mental disorders and there has been a big push for awareness and support for athletes with mental illnesses. Fortunately, there is more information about eating disorders and the issues surrounding them than ever before… but, the information out there is not always targeted to competitive athletes, particularly in non-aesthetic sports.
(Aesthetic sports are those that focus on body weight and image such as gymnastics, running, ice skating, and wrestling, for example. 42% of female athletes competing in aesthetic sports have demonstrated eating disorder behaviors.)
Eating disorders are the second-most deadly psychological issue (only behind opioid addiction) and causes of death often include cardiovascular problems, dehydration, malnutrition, as well as an increased risk of suicide.
Many athletes know that in order to be “elite,” they must make changes or sacrifices in regard to schedules, nutrition, and exercise. Some understand this to mean you need to have “perfect” nutrition and a tireless workout plan… trying to do this on your own with problematic advice out there can fuel an eating disorder and exercise addiction… but in the athletic world, you might be seen as a rockstar and commended for your discipline! What a confusing and toxic cycle this can become!
However, in the eating disorder recovery world, I was asked to abandon both tracking my nutrition and intense exercise. These two worlds did not overlap and I struggled for years to strike a balance.
We know athletes face a special set of challenges and pressures than non-athletes do not. In an excerpt from the NCAA released by the Sport Science Institute (here), one of the biggest challenges in working with athletes in eating disorder treatment is that no one accurately knows the importance of one’s sport in their lives. Along with the fear of gaining weight and/or loss of playing time, the issue may not be seen as a real problem; perhaps these are a few of the reasons why athletes under-report eating disorders.
The hope of creating ACED is to provide information and resources to help athletes and their communities become aware of the challenges they face in athletics. ACED works to help parents, coaches, support staff, and athletes identify these problems before, during, and after they’ve escalated to become problematic and encourages them by providing resources to take early intervention steps to encourage athletes to become a healthy, well-rounded person in sports and in life. It doesn’t have to get “REALLY bad” for disordered eating, thinking, and behaviors to be addressed.
How to Get Involved
You can book Sloane Green, founder of ACED, for a speaking engagement or 1-on-1 coaching by emailing her at SloaneMGreen@gmail.com. Check out the Event tab for upcoming educational opportunities.
Other ways to get involved are to donate to ACED to help fund the future programming available to all people and programs.
Why It Matters (by the numbers)
- 13.5% of athletes (both male and female) have sub-clinical to clinical eating disorders. (1)
- 35% of female and 10% of male athletes are at risk for developing anorexia nervosa. (2)
- 58% of female and 38% of male athletes are at risk for developing bulimia nervosa. (2)
- 42% of high school athletes reported disordered eating patterns… and were eight times more likely to become injured because of it. (3)
- A staggering 91% of collegiate athletic trainers reported working with athletes with eating disorders, but only 27% felt confident in identifying one and 25% had a policy in dealing with them. (4)
- Sundgot-Borgen J, Torstveit MK. (2004). Prevalence of eating disorders in elite athletes is higher than in the general population. Clin J Sport Med., Jan;14(1):25-32.
- The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University. Food for Thought: Substance Abuse and Eating Disorders. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) Columbia University; New York: 2003.
- Jankowski, C. (2012). Associations Between Disordered Eating, Menstrual Dysfunction, and Musculoskeletal Injury Among High School Athletes. Yearbook of Sports Medicine, 2012, 394-395. doi:10.1016/j.yspm.2011.08.003
- Greenleaf, C., Petrie, T. A., Carter, J., & Reel, J. J. (2009). Female Collegiate Athletes: Prevalence of Eating Disorders and Disordered Eating Behaviors. Journal of American College Health, 57(5), 489-496. doi:10.3200/jach.57.5.489-496