Eating Disorders in Female Athletes

Eating disorders are a health concern for people of all ages as well as all genders around the world. However, we are focusing on the prevalence of these disorders amongst female collegiate athletes, as many scientists have found in their studies, strong correlations between female collegiate athletes and a higher prevalence/risk of eating disorders. 

(Arthur-Camselle & Quatromoni, 2010) 

Disordered Eating: In accordance with the Australian government website ‘’ (2015) disordered eating refers to abnormal eating behaviors, the vast majority of which are shared with diagnosable eating disorders. The main factors that differentiate disordered eating disorders are the severity and frequency of the behaviors. 

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Factors That Reduce the Risk

  • Positive and strong coach-athlete relationships (Coker-Cranny & Reel, 2015). 
  • Support and the influence of teammates that exhibit healthy habits and attitudes towards size and shape (Disordered Eating and Dieting 2015). 
  • Coaches and parents that educate and support athletes about their changing female bodies (Coker-Cranny & Reel, 2015). 
  • Further education of coaches on eating disorders and the susceptibility of female athletes (Coker-Cranny & Reel, 2015). 

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What is an Eating Disorder?

Eating Disorder — a range of psychological conditions characterized by abnormal eating habits in which symptoms can lead to the classification as one of the following:

  • Anorexia Nervosa
  • Bulimia Nervosa
  • Binge Eating Disorder
  • Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder

(Disordered Eating and Dieting, 2015) 

Why are Female Collegiate Athletes at Greater Risk?

Female collegiate athletes are not only exposed to the same factors of the general female population that put them at risk of developing an eating disorder such as negative influences on self-esteem, but also added risk factors that are related to collegiate athletic competition, including:

(Arthur-Camselle & Quatromoni, 2010) 

  • Sports emphasizing appearance and weight requirements such as gymnastics, diving and cross-country (Disordered Eating and Dieting 2015).
  • Sports emphasizing individuals rather than the whole team, such as gymnastics a running as opposed to soccer and basketball (Disordered Eating and Dieting 2015). 
  • The overvalued belief that performance will improve with lower body weight (Disordered Eating and Dieting 2015).
  • Coaches focusing primarily on the performance of an athlete as opposed to the athlete as a whole person (Disordered Eating and Dieting 2015).
  • Poor coach-athlete relationships (Coker-Cranney & Reel, 2015). 
  • Negative comments or ‘jokes’ made by coaches(Coker-Cranney & Reel, 2015).