Adolescent Male Athletes: Body Image, Diet, and Exercise

Article excerpt


Body image is a complex phenomenon that includes physiological, psychological, and sociological components. Research has indicated that the degree of satisfaction with one's body image is related to one's self-esteem (Becker, 1981; Grodner, 1991; Ham, Easton, Himburg, & Greenburg, 1983; Hendry & Gillies, 1978; Mishkin et al., 1986; Richards, Casper, & Larson, 1990; Rosen, Gross, & Vara, 1987). Body image perception is thought to consist of both "body percept - accuracy of body size estimation" and "body concept - degree of body dissatisfaction or disparagement (Casper & Offer, 1990; Loosemoore, Mable, & Galgan, 1989; Mishkin et al., 1986; Silberstein, Striegel-Moore, Timko, & Redin, 1988). Additionally, distortions of body image have been reported not only in populations with eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia, but in nonclinical samples. Within nonclinical samples, body image distortions have been associated with lowered self-esteem, depression, and chronic dieting (Cash, Counts, & Huffine, 1990; Mishkind et al., 1986; Wardle & Beales, 1986).

Concerns about body image has traditionally been thought to be a female preoccupation (Cash, Counts, & Huffine, 1990; Dwyer, Feldman, & Mayer, 1967; Grodner, 1991; Loosemoore, Mable, & Galgan, 1989; Striegel-Moore & Silberstein, 1985). However, societal and cultural trends suggest that body image concerns also may affect males. The adolescent male is vulnerable to the pressure to attain the "ideal" male body (Ham et al., 1983; Hendry & Gilles, 1978). This ideal includes a masculine physique (V-shaped), tallness, and muscularity (mesomorphic body build) Damhorst, Littrell, & Littrell, 1987; Koff & Rierdan, 1990; Mishkind et al., 1986). The desire to achieve this image may induce some adolescents to participate in athletics in general, while the individual's body type may provide the impetus for selection of a particular sport (e.g., mesomorphs may tend to select football). Regardless of whether a sport is selected as a result of a natural body type or as a way to achieve a desired body type, there are apt to be cases where the "ideal" and the "actual" body types will not or cannot coincide. This raises the resultant question of body image concerns. Most data on this subject has been obtained from college- and adult-aged populations. There is limited information regarding younger male athletes. This study was undertaken to investigate and compare body image concerns between two groups of adolescent male athletes - football players and cross-country runners. In addition, since modification of body build is often attempted via diet and exercise, data were also gathered on attitudes toward eating and weight control and reasons for exercising.


Sample Selection

A convenience sample of adolescent male football players and cross-country runners were chosen because of the contrasts in body size (i.e., the larger, more muscular physique for football players and the leaner physique of cross-country runners.

Subjects consisted of seventy-four male athletes, ranging in age from 14 to 18 years (30 cross-country runners and 44 football players). Contacts with the athletes were made through the coaching staffs of high schools in the local area. Each coach was given information on the purpose of the study and the instruments to be administered. Because of the varied scheduling and team meetings, each coach had to find an appropriate time to administer the questionnaire. Coaches emphasized the need to take the questionnaires seriously and provided clarification to the participants. The questionnaires were completed and returned immediately to the coaches. The researchers then collected the questionnaires.


Each athlete completed a packet of questionnaires which consisted of the Body Esteem Scale (BES) (Franzoi & Shields, 1984), the Body Size Drawings (BSD) (Fallon & Rossen, 1985), the Eating Attitudes Test (EAT) (Garner, Olmsted, Bohr, & Garfinkel, 1982), and the Reasons for Exercise Inventory (Siberstein et al. …