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Differences in attitudes, behaviours and beliefs towards eating between female bodybuilding athletes and non-athletes, and the implications for eating disorders and disordered eating.

Money-Taylor, Eleanor and Dobbin, Nicholas and Gregg, Rebecca and Matthews, Joseph and Esen, Ozcan (2021) Differences in attitudes, behaviours and beliefs towards eating between female bodybuilding athletes and non-athletes, and the implications for eating disorders and disordered eating. Sport Sciences for Health. ISSN 1824-7490 (In Press)

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Abstract

Background: Female athletes participating in sports emphasising aesthetics are potentially more prone to developing disordered eating (DE) and eating disorders (EDs) than non-athletes, males, and those participating in sports with less emphasis on leanness. Despite this, female bodybuilding athletes have received little attention. Aim: To investigate differences in eating attitudes, behaviours and beliefs in female bodybuilding athletes and a non-athlete group. Methods: A cross-sectional study design was used with the eating attitude test-26 (EAT-26) distributed to 75 women (49.3% bodybuilding athletes; 50.7% non-athletes) and the female athlete screening tool (FAST) distributed to the female bodybuilding group only. Results: Demographic characteristics revealed no significant difference in age, stature or body mass index (P = 0.106 to 0.173), though differences in body mass were evident (P = 0.0001 to 0.042). Bodybuilding athletes scored significantly higher (P = 0.001) than non-athletes on the EAT-26 questionnaire, with significantly more athletes (56.8%) being labelled as ‘at risk’ of an ED than non-athletes (23.7%, P = 0.001). Responses to the FAST questionnaire indicated female bodybuilding athletes have high preoccupation with their body mass; engage in exercise to alter their body mass; and disclosed negative perceptions of themselves. Conclusion: In all, female bodybuilding athletes demonstrate behaviours associated with DE and EDs as well as a preoccupation with nutrition intake, exercise, and strategies to alter their appearance. These findings have important implications for those managing female bodybuilding athletes such as strength and conditioning coaches, athletic trainers, nutritionist and dietitians with respect to detecting DE and EDs as well as minimising the risk factors.

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