Sports performance dietitians often face complex and challenging situations when it comes to managing an athlete’s desire for physique manipulation, and even the appropriateness of conducting physique assessment. What technique to use? Should I be measuring this athlete at all? Should I be assisting this athlete with achieving a particular physique?
On one hand, athletes may request dietary modifications to achieve a specific body composition or performance goal. On the other hand, dietitians must consider the potential health consequences of such modifications, including the risk of developing body image concerns and disordered eating behaviours. These dilemmas can be especially difficult to navigate in sports where a specific body type is often perceived as desirable or necessary for success, leading athletes to engage in unhealthy or extreme weight control practices.
Dietitians must strike a balance between supporting an athlete’s performance goals while also promoting healthy habits and body acceptance. This can involve educating athletes about the dangers of restrictive diets, excessive exercise, and other weight control practices, and working with them to develop individualised and sustainable nutrition plans that support both health and performance. Importantly, it also includes advocating for the athlete’s health and performance to the performance support team and coaching staff.
Overall, the role of the dietitian in this situation requires careful consideration, ethical decision-making, and a strong commitment to promoting positive body image and health in athletes. This scenario is commonly brought to supervision sessions, with the outcome of the dietitian feeling confident and supported in their well-considered approach.