Anorexia in Athletes

Anorexia in Athletes

Illustration of various male and female athletes in different sports.

When we think of an athlete, we picture a person as the epitome of health. And while this may be true for  some athletes, it isn’t always true. Some athletes experience pressure to be the best and to win at all costs—even if that means doing lasting damage to the body.

That damage can come in the form of pushing the body beyond the brink of what is sustainable through intense practice and workouts, as well as through extreme diet changes.

One of the more common results of an athlete pushing oneself too far is the development of an eating disorder . In a study of college athletes, researchers found that 35% of women and 10% of men were considered at high risk for developing anorexia nervosa.

Another study of female high school athletes found that those with disordered eating were eight times more likely to be injured than their peers due to the negative physical effects of their disorder. (1)

Today we’ll look at why athletes sometimes develop anorexia anorexia and how you can get help for yourself or a loved one.

Why Are Athletes At Risk of Developing Anorexia?

There are a few key reasons an athlete might develop anorexia beyond the normal risk factors of family history, personal history, and body image issues. They include (2):

Type of Sport Played

While some sports focus on functionality, others include a component for how an athlete’s body looks. And this matters. If you hope to be at the top of your game, physically,  which may include a certain physique, you may find yourself creating unhealthy eating habits in hopes of  meeting your image base goals.

A few sports that fit this category include gymnastics, bodybuilding, and diving. And while wrestling doesn’t necessarily encourage a certain look, wrestles are required to meet certain weight requirements in order to compete . This, too, can encourage engagement in extreme measures to induce weight loss.

Individual vs. Team Sports

Team sports tend to balance the pressure among most, if not all, of the athletes involved. But individual sports—like running, figure skating, dance, or tennis—tend to place the pressure squarely on one person. It’s no wonder that the pressure can sometimes mount, causing an athlete in an individual sport to put everything they’ve got into winning.

An eating disorder can feel like another way to exert control over the outcome. Of course, nutritional deficits ultimately lead to an unhealthy body, but a person developing an eating disorder in the athletic world may not see it this way at first.

Length of Play

Finally, disordered eating in athletes often occurs  in someone who has honed their skills since childhood, where all parts of life contribute to one goal and only one goal. This is especially true for athletes with high and longstanding expectations for perfection from parents or coaches.

Are you (or a loved one) struggling to resist anorexia in your athletic endeavors? Get help today by giving us a call at 562-434-6007.



  1. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/athletes-eating-disorders
  2. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/eating-disorders-athletes