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A comparison of eating attitudes and behavior and general psychological characteristics in bulimics and bodybuilders

by Goldfield, Gary S.

Abstract (Summary)
Although not conclusive, research has shown that sports and activities that emphasize leanness for enhanced performance or appearance are associated with an increased risk of develophg body dissatisfaction, eating disturbances and frank eating disorders. Bodybuilders, who strive to obtain a lean and mesomorphic ideal, have reported significantly more body dissatisfaction, weight and shape preoccupation, and eating disturbances compared to athletic groups and non-attiletic controls (Goldfield et al., in press). Few studies have examined gender differences in eating psychopathology and associated characteristics in bodybuilders. No study to date has ernployed a concurrent sample of eating disorder subjects in examining eating-related pathology in bodybuilders, making cornparisons between these groups problematic. The goal of the present study was to extend the literature by directly comparing male and female bulimics, competitive bodybiiilders and recreational bodybuilders on eating disorder attitudes and behavior and associated psychological characteristics. The volunteer sample of 145 participants was comprised of 48 bulimics (23 males, 25 males), 47 competitive bodybuilders (27 males, 20 females), and 50 recreational bodybuilders (25 males, 25 females). Standardized measures of eating and general psychopathology were administered in a manner that encouraged honest responding. Results indicate that compared to bulimics, competitive and recreational bodybuilders reported significantly less body dissatisfaction, eating-related disturbances and general psychopathology. No si@ ficant differences on these dimensions emerged between competitive and recreational bodybuilders. Bulirnic females reporîed significantly more eating-related pathology than male bulimics, but no significant gender differences ernerged in bodybuilders on 1 eatin; disorder symptoms or on general (non-eating related) psychological factors. Hierarchical regression analyses indicated that dysfunctional attitudes relating to over valuing body weight and shape sigiificantly predicted eating disturbances in bodybuilders and bulimics. Steroid use was significantlymore prevalent in competitive bodybuilders compared to recreational bodybuilders. In addition, hierarchical regression analyses indicated that kequency of binge eating ernerged as the best predictor of steroid use in competitive bodybuilders, followed by general dysfunctional attitudes and feelings of ineffectiveness. This suggests that competitive bodybuilders who use steroids may be at nsk for developing serious binge eating problems that rnay lead to Bhse Eating Disorder. Male bodybuilders reported significantly more weight and shape preoccupation and body dissatisfaction compared to a normative sample of males; whereas female bodybuilders reported sipnificantly less bulimic tendencies and less body dissatisfaction compared to a normative female sarnple. These fmdings suggest that as a group, male bodybuilders in the present study may be at increased risk of developing an eatin; disorder and female bodybuilders rnay be at lower risk. Importantly, a sub-group of male and female bodybuilders, which tend to be defined by cornpetitive status, reported elevated rates of regular binge eating weight and shape preoccupation, and unhealthy weight control and physique enhancement practices. In pursuit of the lean and mesomorphic ideal, this sub-group of bodybuilders show considerable vulnerability for developing Binge Eating Disorder andor Bulimia Nenosa @N). Clinical and health implications of these findings, as well as five recornmendations for preventing potentiaily harmfül eating and body modification practices associated with bodybuilding, and ideas for fuhue research are provided. . . 11 Abstract.............................................................................................................................................
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Source Type:Master's Thesis

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Date of Publication:01/01/1998

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