Sports-related correlates of disordered eating in aesthetic sports

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Objectives:Eating disorders are more prevalent in aesthetic sports such as figure skating or gymnastics. While many descriptive studies on their prevalence already exist, more and more studies are now examining the reasons for the specific risk of these athletes. The purpose of this study was to focus on sport-specific variables in aesthetic sports and to examine their relation to disordered eating.Design:Cross-sectional.Method:96 Elite athletes from aesthetic sports (61 girls, 35 boys) were compared to a control group of 96 sex-matched non-athletes. The mean age of participants was M = 14.0 years (SD = 2.2). The questionnaire package included disordered eating, general body dissatisfaction, sports-related body dissatisfaction, desire to be leaner to improve sports performance and social pressure to be lean from sports environment.Results:Athletes from aesthetic sports displayed more eating disorder symptoms but did not differ from the control group with respect to general body dissatisfaction. For athletes in aesthetic sports, the desire to be leaner to improve sports performance was a significant predictor for disordered eating, and mediated the relationship between social pressure from the sports environment and disordered eating.Conclusions:The results suggest that sports-related parameters are relevant for understanding eating disorder symptomatology in aesthetic sports. Athletes from aesthetic sports seem to be more at risk if they perceive the possibility to enhance sports performance through weight-regulation, which appears to be triggered by social pressure to be lean from sports environment.

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