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Revista Brasileira de Medicina do Esporte

Print version ISSN 1517-8692On-line version ISSN 1806-9940


OLIVEIRA, Fátima Palha de; BOSI, Maria Lúcia Magalhães; VIGARIO, Patrícia dos Santos  and  VIEIRA, Renata da Silva. Eating behavior and body image in athletes. Rev Bras Med Esporte [online]. 2003, vol.9, n.6, pp.348-356. ISSN 1517-8692.

The sports environment can enhance social and cultural pressure towards a lean body. The close relationship between corporal image and performance makes the female athletes a group particularly vulnerable to eating disorders and weight-control practices. The aim of the present work is to evaluate the presence of behaviors suggestive of eating disorders, shifts in body perception, and menstrual dysfunctions in female athletes of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro School of Physical Education (EEFD-UFRJ). Twelve female athletes (20 ± 2 years), who had been training for 4.6 ± 2.3 years, a total of 13.8 ± 2.9 hours per week, were examined. The results of the athletes and of 32 young non-athletes (15 ± 1.4 years) were compared. The Eating Attitudes Test (EAT-26) was used to evaluate weight-control and eating attitudes and behaviors. The Bulimic Investigatory Test Edimburgh (BITE) was used to identify suggestive behaviors of bulimia nervosa, and also to obtain data about cognitive and behavioral aspects of this disorder. The Body Shape Questionnaire (BSQ) was used to verify dissatisfaction with body image. The three self-applied questionnaires were used in their Portuguese versions. The athletes presented body mass of 59 ± 7.3 kg, height of 1.65 ± 0.03 m, percentage of body fat (%F) of 23.1 ± 4.1% and body mass index (BMI) of 21.6 ± 2.3 kg/m2. The entire sample had a %F compatible for age and sex, although 33% of the athletes presented some body image dissatisfaction. The BITE evidenced that 16.6% of the athletes presented a non-usual dietary pattern according to symptoms, but with no significance in terms of severity. These athletes are included among those who are not happy with their body. No athlete had a positive EAT-26 results. The findings of this study suggest the presence of symptoms that do not actually characterize bulimia or anorexia nervosa, but they point to the need of a careful surveillance and assessment of eating disorders and their precursors among athletes, as a way of prevention.

Keywords : Eating disorders; Athletes; Amenorrhea; Body composition.

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