Campaign launched to tackle eating disorders in sport


#TRAINBRAVE aims to highlight an issue particularly relevant to runners

The #TRAINBRAVE campaign has been launched in an attempt to raise awareness of eating disorders and relative energy deficiency in sports (REDs), highlight risks, and change attitudes within endurance sports.

Eating disorders are mental illnesses involving disordered eating behaviour, which can have serious, long-term physical and mental health consequences, and around 1.25 million people in the UK suffer from them. However, the risks are significantly higher for athletes.

Global studies have shown that there is a 20% higher prevalence among athletes of all ages and abilities to develop a dysfunctional relationship with food and training than the rest of the population.

The #TRAINBRAVE campaign is founded by runner and former eating disorder sufferer, Tom Fairbrother, and leading sports and eating disorder specialist dietitian, Renee McGregor. The campaign aims to inspire more athletes to share their stories, raise the awareness of the risks of eating disorders and REDs, and help reduce the prevalence.

#TRAINBRAVE also hopes to provide more resources to athletes, and encourage an open training environment in which athletes of all ages and levels of competition can flourish. In addition, the campaign aims to empower coaches and clubs to offer more support to athletes by creating an ongoing discussion with all stakeholders working collaboratively to help tackle this growing issue.

#TRAINBRAVE is supported by a number of athletes who have been affected by eating disorders and REDs and who are committed to #TRAINBRAVE and supporting those who are affected by eating disorders and REDs, both now and in the future.

Tom Fairbrother, co-founder of #TRAINBRAVE explains: “As an impressionable, aspiring runner I was encouraged to lose weight in order to improve my performances. This was the trigger that led me to develop an eating disorder resulting in my physical and mental health spiralling out of control.  I did not seek help for many years because as a grown man, I felt embarrassed and ashamed about my illness.

“Through sharing my story publicly I have realised my experience is certainly not unique amongst runners and triathletes of all levels, and through the #TRAINBRAVE campaign we hope to raise awareness of the risks of overtraining and underfueling, and encourage the endurance sports community to dispel the myth that lighter equals faster.”

As part of the campaign, there is a launch event in London on Sunday December 9. The event is free to attend and open to anyone: coaches, athletes, parents, partners and those that have an interest in this topic. 

The event will involve a mix of clinicians, runners and coaches discussing the causes, symptoms and consequences of eating disorders and REDs. The organisers also aim to encourage the audience to share their experiences, concerns and questions in order for us to provide strategies and resources to allow for a change within sport.

 Renee McGregor, co-founder of #TRAINBRAVE comments: “Through the #TRAINBRAVE campaign we hope to to create a more open environment in which athletes, coaches and clubs feel comfortable talking about mental health, whether that be attitudes towards exercise, or their relationships with food.

“We are inviting anyone passionate about endurance sports to join us - whether you are a runner who finds it difficult to take rest days, a club that wants to understand how they can help members manage expectation and pressure, or a coach who feels unable to approach an athlete about concerns.”

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