Dieting and body image in aesthetic sports: A comparison of Dutch female gymnasts and non-aesthetic sport participants

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Objectives:To examine the relationship between dieting behavior and body image in female aesthetic athletes.Methods:Seventeen elite gymnasts, 51 non-elite gymnasts and a control group of 85 schoolgirls, participating in non-elite, merely recreational non-aesthetic sports, completed self-report measures of dieting behaviors and body image.Results:After controlling for BMI, the results showed that elite gymnasts dieted more often than controls, although they were not more negative about their body. Furthermore, non-elite gymnasts dieted as much as controls and had a more positive body image. Despite what general theories predict, the gymnasts' dieting was not so much related to a negative body image but rather to weight-related causal attributions or perceived weight-related coach pressure.Conclusions:Whereas controls believe that ‘thin is beautiful’, gymnasts seem more convinced or persuaded that ‘thin is going to win’. Future research should take into consideration that dieting and body image are likely to be developed differently in the context of aesthetic sports.

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