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Performing in Lycra

Disordered Eating Prevention and Management Guidelines

Australia is a swimming nation; we learn to swim before we walk. Fringed by beaches, surrounded by oceans and dotted with lakes. 1 in 5 Australians is part of our growing swimming family around the country. We perform on the world’s highest stage, but we are also a community that interacts with our aquatic environments for recreation, health, wellbeing, and personal sporting pursuits. We are all striving for something different from our time in the water; the pursuit of performance is but a small component of what makes Swimming Australia and its people unique. We need to be mindful that the requirements of performance should not dictate all aspects of our sport, and we need to ensure our training and competition environments are safe and supportive of all.

Swimming Australia strives to provide all our swimmers, coaches, parents, and fans a safe and supportive environment in which to train, perform and thrive throughout their swimming life. We all have a responsibility to support each other and make our sport a safe environment for everyone. Disordered eating (DE) and eating disorders (EDs) are serious and complicated issues that can impact the health and performance of all members of our swimming community, from those in the high-performance pathway but also those working and engaging in our swimming community. These guidelines have been developed to help our community understand and manage the risks associated with swimming environments. We hope these guidelines will help our community to identify risks and feel confident to address language, culture and environments related to body image, given that this is an area that is often associated with unintended consequences. Such risks, if unnoticed and addressed, may cause behavioural changes in swimmers that can lead to disordered eating and eating disorders.

Due to the nature of our sport, we have unique risks that lead to a high prevalence of these conditions. However, through collective awareness and support around the environmental and contextual risk swimming presents, we can ensure these risks are mitigated and managed. The guidelines provide a foundation to ensure our entire swimming community has a positive experience leading to a lifelong love of the water, the community, and of swimming itself – in whatever form that takes. The guidelines provide clear actions and processes that our community and Swimming Australia should follow to ensure all swimmers and swimming people are able to swim, train and compete in a low-risk and supportive environment, that represents body positivity, a love for the water and lifelong health.