The Pressure of Reducing Weight on Athletes

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Introduction Pressure to reduce weight has been the common explanation for the increased prevalence of eating-related problems among athletes and dancers. One of the reasons that ballet dancers may be at risk for developing eating disorders is that they may have to diet in order to maintain the sylph-like bodies that are required for the discipline of ballet. Lowenkopf and Vincent (1982) have suggested that female adolescent dancers run eight times the risk of developing eating disorders compared to their non-dieting peers. Ballet is also an activity that is low in energy expenditure, and Cohen et al. (1982) reported that while age-matched swimmers or skaters might expend 500 calories in a similar length session, a dancer would only expend 200 calories. However, the important factor may not be dieting per se, but rather the situation in which the performer is told to lose weight, the words used and whether the athlete receives guidance. It is very worrying to experience how unprofessionally some professional teachers and trainers may behave. There is anecdotal evidence of how they set their own standards for body shape and weight, and pass on abnormal eating and dieting myths to the new generations of performers. Statement of Purpose In addition to the pressure to reduce weight, athletes are often pressed for time, and they have to lose weight rapidly to make or stay on the team. As a result they often experience frequent periods of restrictive dieting or weight

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