Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Is it normal for a female athlete to cease menstruating during periods of intense training?

A: NO, it is not normal or healthy for a female athlete to miss her period at any time during training or competing. Athletes require a significant amount of energy to perform in their sport and as a result need to consume a great deal more food energy than non-athletes. When a female athlete misses her period for at least 3 months or has not had a menstrual period by age sixteen, it is very likely she is experiencing amenorrhea. Amenorrhea is the body’s way of telling an athlete that she is over-training, not eating enough or does not have enough body fat for normal body function. More seriously, amenorrhea can be the result of an eating disorder; left unaddressed the athlete may suffer any of a great range of physical and/or emotional problems. If an athlete is experiencing amenorrhea it is important to involve a medical professional immediately. Ensure that they are informed about the Female Athlete Triad and they will help to build a team around the athlete (coaches, parents, physicians, registered dieticians, mental health professionals) to support the athletes progress towards a healthier future.

Q: What is the Female Athlete Triad?

A: The Female Athlete Triad is a condition that affects girls and women in a wide range of sports. The Triad is among the most serious health concerns facing girls and women in sport. It includes disordered eating, disruption to the menstrual cycle, and weakened bones. There are many signs and symptoms of the Triad. In addition to loss of menstrual period, major signs include stress fractures, low weight and low body fat, low endurance and energy, fatigue, cold intolerance, and intestinal difficulties. If an athlete has symptoms of the Triad, involve a medical professional immediately. For detailed information on Female Athlete Triad please click here.

Q: What's a normal growth spurt for adolescent females?

A: Between the ages of 9 and 16 years it is normal and healthy for a female to gain, on average, between 2-5 kg (5 –10 pounds) each year and to grow as many as 28 cm (10 inches), as per the National Centre for Health Statistics. During these growing years it is expected that an adolescent girl will grow out of her clothes on a yearly basis; for instance, her pants from grade 8 may not fit her in grade 9 as her pants from grade 9 again will not fit her in grade 10. For more information on Natural Body Size please click here.

Q: How can I, as a father, help my daughter with disordered eating?

A: Men whether fathers, brothers, husbands, boyfriends, friends or coaches can support the girls and women in their lives to help lessen the likelihood of an eating disorder developing. First, look at your own attitudes toward food and weight.

  • Do you do and say things to girls and women that are supportive or hurtful?
  • Do you make "fat" jokes? Do you laugh at them? Or do you treat such behaviour as you would a racist comment, and tell other people that such jokes are not acceptable?
  • Do you give women the impression that you like them because of the way they look?
  • Do you show your love or friendship in ways that are not based on the way a woman looks?
  • When a woman asks, "Do I look fat in this?" do you respond with a comment that increases her concern with her appearance?

Negative comments and behaviours feed into feelings that could ultimately turn into an eating disorder. Instead, find ways to communicate love or friendship that is not based on how a person looks. Tell her that her appearance has nothing to do with her value as a person. A woman might be displacing emotions she cannot deal with onto her body. Ask her if something is wrong. What is she worried about that is being turned into a fear of looking or being fat? It is important that you are patient, sensitive and understanding. Focus on her experiences and her feelings, not eating problems or her body shape. (Adapted from information provided by NEDIC, For more information on creating an environment that fosters positive body image read the 10 BodySense Basic.