Eating Disorders in Athletes

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Eating Disorders in Athletes

When we see a gymnast or a wrestler on television, we sometimes marvel at how good their body looks, and how physically fit they are. As these athletes may indeed have thin, well toned bodies, some of them may be a result of eating disorders. Both male and female athletes are at risk for eating disorders, although there is a greater probability that a female athlete will be the victim. Sports that have a high percentage of athletes with eating disorders include: gymnastics, running, cycling, swimming, wrestling, and dancing (Thompson). The development of eating disorders in male and female athletes arise for different reasons, and result in different problems, but the negative of effects of eating disorders are equally as dangerous for both genders.

Many female athletes with eating disorders are at risk for what is known as the female athlete triad. This is a “combination of three conditions: disordered eating, amenorrhea, and osteoporosis” (Dowshen). Disordered eating results from female athletes attempting to avoid foods that they think are unhealthy. However, this becomes over excessive and the athlete will begin to eat much too little. This may lead to eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, or bulimia nervosa. Other signs of disordered eating include: excessive exercise at a very intense level, lack of body fat, and weight loss. Amenorrhea, caused by the female athlete having a much higher “energy out” than “energy in,” results in a decrease in estrogen, resulting in irregular menstrual cycles. In some cases, their menstrual cycles may “stop altogether” (Dowshen). The third factor in the triad is osteoporosis. For most people, lifting weights and performing in cardiovascular exercise helps protect bones against calcium loss. However, for female athletes with an eating disorder, particularly anorexia nervosa, strenuous activity can weaken their bones and cause bone loss. This is the final factor in the...
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