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Eating disorders in female athletes

Last reviewed dd mmm yyyy. Last edited dd mmm yyyy

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Eating disorders in athletes

  • some female athletes do have a classic eating disorder, potentially driven by a need to maintain a low body mass for performance
    • anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, however have specific clinical diagnostic criteria, and not all athletes satisfy the criteria that indicate a disturbance in how they experience body weight or shape
  • term "anorexia athletica" has been used to distinguish between pathological anorexia and eating disorders associated with training and sports performance
    • criteria for this include perfectionism, compulsiveness, competitiveness, high self motivation, menstrual disturbances, and at least one unhealthy method of weight control (fasting, vomiting, and use of diet pills, laxatives, or diuretics) (1)
  • in reality, athletes in this category will show signs of disordered eating, as opposed to an eating disorder, and clinical observations indicate a prevalence of 15-60% for disordered eating, with 50% of these women compulsively overexercising
    • includes a broad range of behaviours used to maintain or lose weight
      • one of the most common behaviors exhibited is inadequate energy intake (calories) for energy expended, resulting in an energy deficit
        • occasionally this result is unintentional as training levels increase, but often this behaviour is used as a weight loss method (2)
      • another common behavior is restricting certain foods, particularly those high in fat and/or protein
      • other disordered behaviors include binge eating and/or purging
        • purging includes not only self-induced vomiting but use of diet pills, laxatives, and diuretics, as well as an increase in exercise
  • occasionally the practitioner may identify a more serious eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa

 

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