Body Image and Eating Disorders Among Non-elite Athletes

Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
November/December 2003 Volume 14, Number 6
©2003 Gürze Books

Elite athletes are no strangers to eating disorders, but what about nonprofessional gymnasts, ballet dancers, and body-builders? According to the results of an Italian study, inappropriate eating attitudes and behaviors seem to be prevalent in certain sports (Psychopathology 2003;36:247).

An Italian Study

Dr. C. Ravaldi and colleagues at Florence University Medical School, Florence, Italy, evaluated 113 non-elite ballet dancers, 54 female gymnasium users, 44 male noncompetitive body-builders, 105 female controls and 30 male controls. The subjects completed a battery of tests, including the Body Uneasiness Test, the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, the Beck Depression Inventory, and were interviewed with the Eating Disorder Examination (EDE-12).

Highest Rates among Ballet Dancers

Prevalence rates were highest among ballet dancers (anorexia nervosa, 1.8%, bulimia nervosa, 2.7%, and eating disorders not otherwise specified, 22.1%). Those who frequented gymnasiums followed closely, with anorexia nervosa, 2.6%, and EDNOS, 18%). EDE total scores were highest among female dancers, gymnasium users, female controls, body-builders, and male controls. EDE scores were highly related to Body Uneasiness Test scores, especially in the non-elite ballet dancers and in noncompetitive body builders.

The authors concluded that people who participate in sports that emphasize thinness or muscularity, such as ballet and body-building, may have greater than normal body unease and inappropriate eating attitudes and behaviors.

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