Studies regularly show that women athletes have a substantially higher incidence of eating disorders than the general public. Multiple theories suggest why athlete eating disorders are on the rise, and it is essential to understand the causes of the problem to develop solutions. If we do not understand the causes of this issue, we cannot confidently invest in and pursue the purported solutions.

Some speculate that women athletes are prone to eating disorders because the perfectionism traits linked to eating disorders are adaptive to athletes.

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Those who desire to become top athletes benefit from being willing to dedicate time to training, give up opportunities for short-term enjoyment of other activities, and train their bodies to achieve peak fitness. Activities, including proper eating habits, can be sacrificed to achieve body fat content and similar goals.

Dedication to practice, training, and proper nutrition are all admirable. Still, these can go off the rails and become so consuming that they become counterproductive to the athlete’s health and athletic success.

Rather than following proper nutrition guidelines and nourishing their bodies as needed, the false goal of minimizing eating becomes part of a disordered approach to nutrition, eating habits, and body image views. Hopefully, additional research will help us better understand the causes of these issues and direct us toward solutions.