UF Researcher: Athletes Likely To Have Symptoms Of Eating Disorders

ther common symptom are binging and purging techniques such as taking laxatives, diuretics and diet pills and engaging in excessive exercise.

Hausenblas said some of the traits of eating disorders stem from qualities that also drive people to succeed in sports competition, such as perfectionism, compulsiveness, self-motivation and high achievement expectations.

"This is a very prevalent problem in athletics," said Marie Chafe, the executive director of the Altamonte Springs-based International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals. "In fact, it has grown to such an extent that several universities are now implementing programs for their student-athletes to deal with eating disorders."

Body dissatisfaction among women has increased over the last few decades, which has led to a growing number of women with eating disorders. In fact, some studies have shown that about a third of women between the ages of 18 and 24 suffer from some degree of disordered eating, Chafe said. Societal pressure to conform to the current "ideal" body shape has led many women to change their self-perceptions.

"Society's ideal fluctuates," Hausenblas said. "In the 1960s, it was a thin shape. Today, it is a thin and fit shape. To achieve the ideal, many men and women try to lose weight and tone up and they begin to diet, which is the No. 1 precursor to an eating disorder."

For the most part, she said, sport participation has many physical and psychological benefits. However, in general, athletes are reporting more eating disorder symptoms than nonathletes, particularly athletes in aesthetic sports.

Further research is needed to determine if athletes are more at-risk than nonathletes for actual eating disorders, Hausenblas said, adding that education of coaches and judges is the first step in awareness and prevention of eating disorder symptoms.


Contact: Heather Hausenblas
University of Florida

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