Eating Disorders and Obesity: A Comprehensive Handbook

By Christopher G. Fairburn; Kelly D. Brownell | Go to book overview

46
Sport, Occupation,
and Eating Disorders

SUSAN M. BYRNE

During the 1980s, a series of case studies, anecdotal reports, and press accounts began to emerge about eating disorders in individuals belonging to specific “high-risk” populations, such as athletes, dancers, fashion models, and those involved in the entertainment industry. An increasing amount of research has since begun to examine the extent and nature of eating disorders in such groups, although, so far, the research has almost exclusively focused on athletes and ballet dancers. This chapter begins by outlining some reasons why these groups are considered to be at particular risk for developing eating disorders, and then review existing studies of eating disorders in athletes and dancers, highlighting various methodological limitations of these studies. Finally, some guidelines for the prevention and management of eating disorders in high-risk groups are suggested, along with directions for future research.


REASONS FOR THE INCREASED VULNERABILITY
OF “HIGH-RISK” GROUPS

Performance Enhancement and Aesthetic Appeal

The most prominent line of thinking stems from the proposed link between sociocultural pressure to conform to an unrealistically thin body ideal and the development of eating disorders (see Chapter 19). It is suggested that in addition to this pressure, which particularly impinges on females, athletes and dancers may come under specific pressure from within their highly competitive subcultures to manipulate their eating and weight in order to maximize their performance and/or improve their aesthetic appeal. This pressure is likely to be particularly intense for athletes competing in sports with strict weight restric

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