Eating Disorders Among Athletes

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As mentioned throughout this paper athletes can suffer from eating disorders. Some of those risk factors can include trying to perfect their physical appearance as well as trying to fit in along with the other athletes. Social media can also be one of the factors that can contribute to an athlete’s eating disorder due to having an image to show other than what is really true.

According to the National Eating Disorders Association there is a long spectrum of what are the types of eating disorders. Some of the most common eating disorders among athletes includes anorexia, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder and orthorexia. In order for an individual to be diagnosed with anorexia they have to fit in four categories which include the obsession of weight loss and refusing to maintain their normal weight based of their age and height. The third category includes the imbalanced of body image and lastly the individual suffers from amenorrhea. Amenorrhea is when a female stops menstruating some factors may include weight loss, excessive exercise and high stress levels.

The absence of menstruation can have long term effects on a women’s body by potentially causing infertility and hormonal imbalances and potentially experiencing pre-menopause in young women suffering from a eating disorder. Some of athlete’s who can potentially have a higher risk of suffering from anorexia includes figure skating, gymnast, and jockeys. These type of athletes are usually petite and slim for example, jockeys have to maintain a low weight in order to be able to race. Jockeys need to weigh in before and those who finish top five jockeys weight in again. (Bell M. Tolich M.) Since jockeys have to constantly be weigh they can become obsessed.

Besides anorexia another eating disorder is bulimia. Bulimia can be characterized by uncontrolled episodes of binge eating followed by self induced vomiting. In order for an individual to be diagnosed with bulimia the binge episodes can happened every two weeks in the past three months as well as having an obsession with body image and not wanting to gain weight.

According to an article published by Stanford University called “Running on Empty: Temporary Eating Disorders in Female Athletes” ballerinas have an all time high of 14.2% to suffer from bulimia compared 2% of the general population. (Kim V, 2019) Male athletes are also vulnerable to eating disorders such as bulimia for example in wrestling and long distance running. In wrestling both males and females have to be monitoring their weight in order to qualify in a specific match. This can cause abnormal eating habits as well as induced vomiting or take water pills to meet their match weigh. Eating disorder can cause the individual to suffer from any mental and physical health conditions.

Another common eating disorder that athletes can suffer from is orthorexia. Orthorexia is an obsession with eating “healthy”. All athletes strive to perfect their physique and their performance but sometimes eating healthy can become obsessive where athletes start to count all of their caloric intake. Over time this disorder can start having a health effect on the individual by potentially not getting enough of their needed nutrients. Some of the signs include obsessing over the ingredients of their food and where it’s coming from as well as constantly thinking about if the food is “pure”. Individuals might not show the typical obsession of body image unlike bulimia or anorexia.

The health consequences eating disorders can cause include cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, neurological, endocrine, and can even lead to death. When the body isn’t getting the proper nutrients needed it starts breaking down muscles and fat in order to compensate what it needs. Some cardiovascular disorders include heart failure. The heart doesn’t have enough energy to pump all the blood needed also causing low blood pressure.

The heart will eventually gives out. The effects eating disorders have concerning the gastrointestinal system include bloating of the abdomen, vomiting, bacterial infections and blocked intestines. This can also cause the individual to be constipated due to the blockage of improper digestion of food. If the individual suffers from binge eating the stomach will eventually burst causing serious medical attention. Self induced vomiting can harm the esophagus because of the stomach acid also causing soar throat.

Another important system is the body’s neurological system. The brain needs fat in order to protect itself and to use it as energy for the neurons to work effectively. Lacking some of these nutrients cause the neurons to stop functioning properly leading up to felling dizzy and potentially fainting.


Cite this paper

Eating Disorders Among Athletes. (2020, Sep 22). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/eating-disorders-among-athletes/



Do athletes have a higher prevalence of eating disorders?
Prevalence of eating disorders in elite athletes is higher than in the general population . Clin J Sport Med.
What percent of athletes have eating disorders?
The National Eating Disorder Association reports that up to 3.5% of athletes have eating disorders.
Why do athletes struggle with eating disorders?
Athletes struggle with eating disorders because they are under a lot of pressure to maintain a certain weight and body type.
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