Exercise and Eating Disorders: An Ethical and Legal Analysis

Exercise and Eating Disorders: An Ethical and Legal Analysis

Exercise and Eating Disorders: An Ethical and Legal Analysis

Exercise and Eating Disorders: An Ethical and Legal Analysis


Eating disorders (EDs) have become a social epidemic in the developed world. This book addresses the close links between EDs and exercise, helping us to understand why people with EDs often exercise to excessive and potentially harmful levels. This is also the first book to examine this issue from an ethical and legal perspective, identifying the rights and responsibilities of people with EDs, their families and the fitness professionals and clinicians that work with them.

The book offers an accessible account of EDs and closely examines the concept of addiction. Drawing on a wide range of medical, psychological, physiological, sociological and philosophical sources, the book examines the benefits and risks of exercise for the ED population, explores the links between EDs and other abuses of the body in the sports environment and addresses the issue of athletes with disordered eating behaviour. Importantly, the book also surveys current legislation and professional codes of conduct that guide the work of fitness professionals and clinicians in this area and presents a clear and thorough set of case histories and action points to help professionals better understand, and care for, their clients with EDs.

Exercise and Eating Disorders is important reading for students of applied ethics, medical ethics and the ethics of sport, as well as for fitness professionals, psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, sports coaches and sport and exercise scientists looking to improve their understanding of this important issue.


Walter Vandereycken

The French philosopher Michel Foucault has made the distinction between two social constructions of the modern body. The intelligible body represents the wider cultural arena of social control, whereas the useful body is the practical and direct locus of social control through which culture is converted into habitual bodily activity. Aesthetic representations of the body are translated in a set of practical rules and regulations, in particular norms of beauty and models of health. By obeying these sociocultural prescriptions, for example, through the discipline of diet and exercise, the living body is shaped into a socially adapted and ‘useful’ body, regulated in the interest of public health, economy, and political order.

Dietary practices and physical exercises are now aids to self-presentation. Striving for self-fulfillment, individuals depend upon validation from others. In this quest for validation, the ‘self’ is expected to be transparent through its physical appearance. To be a successful self in competitive social relations requires a successful body, disciplined to enhance personal value with the help of a growing sector of body-work professions (dietitians, cosmetologists, plastic surgeons) and a powerful keep-fit industry. Following the performance ethic and assisted by scientific disciplines, this successful self can be calculated using weight charts, calorie tables, and fitness schemes.

The beauty culture has become scientific, and medical sciences have promoted the rise of disciplined and useful bodies. The medical diet seeks to preserve the inner body, the ‘body-machinery’ (health, youth), while the consumer diet is aimed at enhancing the surface of the body, the ‘face-work’ (beauty, distinction). Keeping the body in good shape, then, means to make it both productive and attractive, competitive and distinctive, successful and desirable, a rational tool and a vehicle of pleasure. But at what price?

Whether corseted under tight external constraints or internally disciplined through diets and exercises, why do so many people comply with the social prescriptions of specific body sculpture up to the point of jeopardizing their own health? This book does not only offer a wealth of information and practical advice, it also faces us with challenging ethical and legal questions. And, indirectly, Simona Giordano is holding a mirror up to the reader’s face. Whether fat or thin, fit or sick, instead of programming new aesthetic, scientific, or therapeutic codes, we should first try to decode the sociocultural messages of the . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.