Eating Disorders and Female Athletes Essay

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Eating Disorders and Female Athletes

INTRODUCTION Athletes are among the quickest, strongest, most flexible people in the world, so one would expect them to adhere to the latest health and fitness information, right? Not always. The problem is that the athletes often believe that more fit equals less fat. The death of Olympic gymnast Christy Henrich from anorexia nervosa began to bring the topic of athletes and eating disorders to the forefront. Research into the topic of eating disorders and athletes shows a few interesting findings. Most of the studies focus on women and specific sports, namely gymnastics, figure skating, diving, and other weight-dependent sports. Some research, however, shows prevelance findings of eating
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Within the triad are the classic eating disorders. Joy (1997) states that women with the restricting type of eating disorder (like anorexia) classically have physical signs of starvation. They often appear very thin and have low body weight for their height and low body fat. Bulimia is harder to identify because those with the disorder tend to be normal weight although they may show signs through erosion of the tooth enamel, face and extremity edema, and bloodshot eyes (Joy, Clark, Ireland, Martire, Nattiv, & Varechok, 1997).


Much emphasis has been given to a focus of female gymnasts in literature concerning eating disorders and athletes presumably because the appearance and performance demands of gymnastics lead these athletes to diet in an effort to attain or maintain sub optimal weights (Rosen & Hough, 1988; Thompson & Sherman, 1993; Yeates, 1991). Dieting and attempted weight loss many times precipitate the development of an eating disorder (Garfinkel & Garner, 1982; ). Thus, attempts to lose weight increase the athlete's risk of developing an eating disorder.

Over the past thirty years a trend has shown that U.S. Olympic female gymnasts have become significantly smaller in terms of body size and weight (Nattiv & Mandelbaum, 1993). Many gymnasts diet and attempt to lose weight to improve athletic performance. Wilmore (1992, 1993) suggests that the higher the body weight, generally

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