Musculoskeletal Conditions and Concerns in Overweight and Obese Athletes

Sep 29, 2021 / Sports Medicine

Nutrition Guidance for the Athlete with Overweight or Obesity

This material was presented by Taylor Morrison, M.S., R.D., CSSD, L.D., in the lecture series Coffee, Kids and Sports Medicine. Together with Corey S. Gill, M.D., M.A., Morrison addressed Musculoskeletal Conditions and Concerns in Overweight and Obese Athletes.

Watch both lectures. | Download this PDF summary of the sports nutrition content.

Discussing Weight Management Strategies
Many young athletes struggle with feeling or being overweight or obese. Those who face health or surgical risks due to their weight or who have recently experienced unhealthy unintentional weight gain may benefit from weight management efforts. While weight management may be beneficial for some, practitioners, family, coaches and friends must appreciate that this is a sensitive topic. 

Well-intentioned practitioners often counsel overweight youth to adopt better habits in an effort to reduce their weight. Unfortunately, this can have unintended consequences if not handled appropriately. The conversation should begin with the A review of the literature teaches us to assess signs of readiness before starting on weight management. To do this we must understand that children and teens are in a vulnerable state of growth and development making them more aware of their body, increasing their risk of low self-esteem, and making them more susceptible to disordered eating and eating disorders. Everyone must also remember that any form of weight management requires proper monitoring, takes time and can be very difficult.

If the young athlete is ready to start weight management efforts, the following approaches have been shown to contribute to long-term weight loss and maintenance:

Focus on the Long Game
For children and growing teens, the goal is weight maintenance as they grow, which allows the body mass index (BMI) to fall as they get older.

Influence Matters
Parental involvement and modeling of healthy eating behaviors is crucial. However, parental restriction over the child’s eating patterns and vocal concern about the child’s weight is discouraged.

Resist the Urge to Restrict
Restrictive diets have been found to be unsuccessful because they may have growth and development or mental health risks associated with them or they are not sustainable.

Encourage consistent meals and snacks each day, using non-diet, stop light or intuitive eating approaches. These strategies put health at the center of the conversation instead of weight.

The risks associated with obesity are well known and therefore, the potential improvements associated with implementing health-centered eating habits are important. These strategies will not be successful for all. Consulting a dietitian or provider focused on the care and management of overweight and obese children and adolescents may improve their chances of success.
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