Jan 29, 2015
Predicting Disordered Eating Before It Occurs

With an estimated one to four percent of young women in the U.S. suffering from eating disorders and considering the high calorie demands of competitive athletes, early diagnosis of disordered eating in female student-athletes is critical. University of Missouri researcher Pamela Hinton, PhD, has found that a written questionnaire can help predict specific psychosocial risk factors associated with disordered eating habits.

An Assistant Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Missouri, Hinton designed the questionnaire with a colleague to measure five variables: drive for thinness and performance; social pressure on eating; performance perfectionism; social pressure on body shape; and team trust. For example, athletes who agree with statements like, “I often wish I were leaner so I could perform better,” and “I am trying to lose weight for my sport,” would earn a high score in drive for thinness and performance.

Hinton administered the test to 167 varsity female athletes from nine different sports at three NCAA Division I schools, hoping to find correlations between certain variables and the likelihood that an athlete would suffer from disordered eating. She found that two of the variables—drive for thinness and performance and social pressure on body shape—were the strongest predictors of disordered eating. Athletes with high scores in drive for thinness and performance were 10 times more likely than those with normal scores to experience disordered eating, while those who scored high in social pressure on body shape were five times more likely.


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