Eating Disorders and Female Athletes Essay example

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Eating Disorders and Female Athletes

What are eating disorders?

Eating disorders are characterized by gross disturbances in eating behavior and include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, eating disorders not otherwise specified(NOS), and binge eating disorder. Also, several researchers have coined the term anorexia athletics.

Anorexia nervosa is characterized by refusal to maintain body weight over a minimum level considered normal for age and height, along with distorted body image, fear of fat and weight gain, and amenorrhea (absence of menstruation). Bulimia nervosa is characterized by binge eating followed by purging. These behaviors should occur at least twice a week for three months. Binge eating disorder typically
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Prolonged amenorrhea (5 months or longer without a menstrual period) is seen in some athletic groups. It may be associated with eating problems and dieting behavior, or simply with high levels of physical activity. (Brooks-Gunn, et al.)

Who is at risk?

Numerous studies have shown that athletes are more prone to developing eating disorders than nonathletes, as well as female athletes being more at risk than their male counterparts. Disordered eating is seen in athletes of all sports. (Johnson, 1994). The prevalence of eating disorders in the female athletic population ranges from anywhere between one and forty percent, depending on the athletes questioned, and the methodology used (Sundgot-Borgen, 1994). Rosen and Hough (1988) found that 32 percent of athletes practiced at least one pathogenic weight-control technique(141). A study done by Sundgot-Borgen, in 1994, controlled for the possibility that self-report data could be unreliable in numerous ways, including not informing coaches of their intentions, and assuring 100 percent confidentiality to the athletes who participated. It found that the risk for eating disorders is increased if an athlete's dieting is unsupervised, if there is an early start to sport-specific training, and/or extreme exercise (Sundgot-Borgen, 418).

Does the nature or type of sport matter?

Yes and no. It is believed that the highest prevalence of eating disorders is in female athletes competing in sports
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