Nutrition plays a vital role in athletic performance. With increasing energy demands these individuals require sufficient fuel to help with performance and recovery. Due to rigorous demands in training, some athletes may experience disordered eating. According to nationaleatingdisorders.org., although sports training offers tremendous benefits, the pressures of athletic competition increases the risks of obtaining disordered eating for both males and females. In fact, in a study conducted on division one NCAA female athletes, researchers found that 1/3 of these individuals were at an increased risk of developing anorexia nervosa (2016). According to eatrightpro.org., eating disorders are considered a biological based mental illness (2016). Often these individuals are resistant to treatment because they have anosognosia, which is a lack of awareness (eatrightpro, 2016). To treat eating disorders, a team of clinical psychologists and registered dietitians with an understanding of its psychological component is essential.
In the department of nutrition and dietetics, Jill M Snyder instructs classes such as Basic Principles of Human Nutrition, Life Span Nutrition and Nutrition Counseling and Communication. She received both her undergraduate and masters degree here at the University of North Florida (Go Ospreys!). For the past 14 years, Professor Synder has specialized in the treatment of eating disorders and sports nutrition. In this time she worked as a consultant dietitian for 8 years in a private practice. Growing up her father was a football coach from where she grew an interest in exercise science and sports nutrition. As she got closer to studying sports nutrition, she began to see a correlation between performance and disordered eating. In the private practice, working along side a therapist, she began to understand and learn the psychological standpoint behind disordered eating. She explained that about 95% of patients that came into the practice received treatment for eating disorders where she was able to create an outpatient program.
After working at the private practice, she began to work as an adjunct professor for the department of nutrition and dietetics and the University of North Florida. As of three years, she is now full-time faculty where she applies her experience and knowledge in both lecture and in research. During her time at UNF, she has worked closely with Dr. Yu as a nutrition practitioner, where she was able to work as the lead dietitian in some of the intervention studies. As of recent, she just completed a study with Dr. Yu where they examined if a web-based treatment was as effective as a traditional face-to-face treatment in treating eating disorders. In this study about 20 participants were involved in 12-week cycles with the assistance of another dietitian and two therapists to determine the data. It will be very interesting to see the data of this study. Along with this study, she has helped Dr. Yu arrange nutritional surveys that was sent to the University of Florida population in determining how nutrition major students differ in disordered eating compared to other majors amongst campus. She discussed that nationally our profession has a higher prevalence of eating disorders than any other eating disorder. It will be very interesting to the data of this survey as well.
As we grow into our profession, it’s important to understand that nutrition is correlated with many factors. As Professor Synder started with an interest in sports performance and nutrition, she started to also understand the psychological and behavioral aspect of nutrition that affects many of our population today. If any students are currently interested in eating disorders or sports nutrition, do not hesitate to stop by her office during office hours.