How Common Are Eating Disorders in Olympic Skating?

Published On: March 13, 2018Categories: Eating Disorders

Olympic figure skaters are revered for their beauty and grace on the ice, and there is a correlating pressure to maintain precise control of their physique. This sort of pressure can lead to body-image issues and make eating disorders in ice skating a cause for concern.

Eating Disorders in Ice Skating

Eating disorders in ice skating are a documented occurrence. The results of a 2011 study in Psychology of Sport and Exercise found that athletes who participated in aesthetic-based sports, such as figure skating, experienced more symptoms of eating disorders than individuals in a control group did.

Specifically, athletes who thought that being lean would improve their performance were more likely to experience eating disorders. Eating disorders in ice skating could therefore result from athletes believing that being thinner will help them to win more competitions.

Extreme Dieting Among Ice Skaters

Eating disorders in ice skating might stem from skaters following unbalanced diets in order to stay thin. A 2004 study in Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism found that 30 percent of female figure skaters viewed themselves as overweight.

The diets of both male and female skaters involved with the study were deficient in calories and fiber. Female skaters’ diets were also deficient in fat, and both male and female skaters demonstrated a lack of essential vitamins and minerals in their diets, including vitamin D, vitamin E, magnesium and potassium. Eating disorders in ice skating can involve restrictive dieting practices that result in malnutrition.

Body Image in Ice Skating

Pressure to be thin can result in body-image issues and eating disorders in ice skating. Researchers for a 2015 edition of the Journal of Clinical Sport Psychology found that female figure skaters experienced pressure to be thin at as young as 7 years of age, and this pressure was linked to body-image concerns and unbalanced methods of managing weight.

Female skaters were also strict about the type of body they viewed as ideal, and they were not accepting of other body types, a viewpoint which can promote eating disorders in ice skating.

Pressure to maintain an idealized physique for skating can result in unbalanced eating habits, body-image concerns, and eating disorders in ice skating. Ice skaters would benefit from working with dietitians and eating disorder counselors to help them maintain a balanced diet while managing the expectations of their sport.

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