Female Athletes and Eating Disorders

By Soubliere, Danielle; Gitimu, Priscilla N. | The Sport Journal, Annual 2012 | Go to article overview

Female Athletes and Eating Disorders


Soubliere, Danielle, Gitimu, Priscilla N., The Sport Journal


Introduction

An eating disorder is a psychological disorder that many women can acquire, including collegiate athletes. Participation in sports activity can be a healthy and enjoyable experience that can enhance self-worth and self-image in female athletes (12). Many people may believe that because athletes participate in sports and maintain high levels of physical activity, they are not as self-conscience about their bodies. Contrary to this belief, (1) stated in their study that athletes are at a greater risk for developing eating disorders than non-athletes. Why female athletes have eating disorders when they are so active is a question of interest to many people. The purpose of this study is to find how prevalent eating disorders are in female athletes and examine factors that may have a relationship with eating disorders.

Incorrect weight perceptions are more common in young women, with persistent overestimation of weight and attempts to lose weight even when unnecessary (7). (5) stated that female athletes are a group particularly at risk for developing eating disorders or engaging in unhealthy behaviors to control their weight. These athletes not only face the typical social pressures to be thin, but they also are immersed in a social context that focuses on their bodies.

Eating disorders are behavioral syndromes associated with considerable mobility that present onset of the highest mortality rates among mental illnesses. The prevalence of eating disorders' has increased since the 1990s in both female athletes and non-athletes. Female athletes go through a lot of pressures and conflicts playing collegiate sports. Female athletes are a group particularly at risk for developing eating disorders or engaging in unhealthy behaviors to control their weight (13).

The western cultural emphasis given to weight and body shape points towards a "beauty standard" centered on thinness disorders (11). For some female college athletes, college concerns and pressures may contribute to eating disorders or disordered eating behaviors (6). The sports environment can heighten body and weight related concerns because of factors such as pressure from coaches and social comparisons, body dissatisfaction, physique anxiety, and perfectionism (6, 11). A lack of professional guidance can make an athlete vulnerable to the onset of disordered eating (10). It appears that negative moods such as anxiety, perfectionism, and negative comments about body shape or weight from coaches are related to disorder eating in female athletes (1). (9) found that social pressure on body shape was strongly correlated with body dissatisfaction. Female athletes' body dissatisfaction has shown correlation with bulimia (6). According to (7), perfectionism, for example in sports has been found to be a risk factor for bulimic symptoms.

However, prevalence of clinical and subclinical eating disorders has been found to be higher-among female athletes than non-athletes (5). Young women, particularly those in aesthetic sports are vulnerable to body dissatisfaction, eating disorders, and disordered eating (10). Situational factors specifically involvement in individual sports or team sports, may put athletes in situations where social physique anxiety and disordered eating is likely to be heightened to manage weight and shape concerns (13, 8).

This is an important topic because although physical activity enhances self-esteem and promotes physical and emotional well-being, there is evidence that female athletes are at a risk of developing disordered eating. It is important to investigate some of the reasons why female collegiate athletes feel the need to have disordered eating. Results of the study can assist in developing and executing suitable eating-disorder prevention and intervention programs for female college athletes.

The purpose of the study was twofold. First, it was to assess how prevalent eating disorders were among female college athletes. …

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