Women athletes are likely to be monitored for eating disorders these days. Representatives of aesthetic sports are more likely to establish an eating disorder than different type of female athletes (Sungot-Borgen & Torstveit, 2004). ‘The prevalence of excessive training loads and the over emphasis on thinness is increasing in all aesthetically shaped sports’ (Boros, 2009, p.1). Ballerinas, dancers, figure skaters, synchronized swimmers, just like rhythmic gymnasts are often subject of developing eating disorders by practicing unhealthy methods for weight loss (Salbach et al., 2007). Stress and high demand are they key factors behind. These types of female athletes tend to be less satisfied with their physique, have lower confidence level and more severe dieting methods than non-active females or representatives of other sports. No being able to maintain their ideal thin shape might cause disappointment, shame and misery to them that could eventually lead to loose their emotional stability and have issues in their relationships.
Smolak, Murnen, and Ruble (2000)’s research indicates that there’s significant difference between eating disordered female athletes and non-athletes in their attitude towards eating habits. Individuals who demonstrate disordered eating behaviors attempt to control their weight through means of laxatives, diet pills, excessive exercise and self-induced vomiting (Smolak et al., 2000). An individual with disordered eating behaviors will also engage in numerous diets that are often extreme and restrict their caloric and nutritional intake (Smolak et al., 2000).
Athletes are more likely to have a goal focused nutritional plan, where their main target is achieving their best performance possible while those without a main focus might be more extreme in their methods of restrictions (Smolak et al., 2000). The difference is best described that gymnasts are likely to look for the nutrition essentially needed for success while non-athletes tend to be very focused on not to eat what is on their restriction list (Smolak et al., 2000). Another significant difference that Smolak et al., (2000) points out is that gymnasts might be happy with their physique overall and only require a lean body for their athletic success. This factor indicates how outside demand can pressurize an athlete and can lead to body image distortion and developing bad eating habits.
Sundgot-Borgen (1996) discovered other specific traits of rhythmic gymnasts developing eating disorders. Those gymnasts already possessing a thin shape might also change their eating habits to make sure they can keep it up. This indicates that the present physique might not be the key factor when developing eating disorders.