The number of females participating in college sports in the U.S. has increased in last two decades. While female college athletes might be at a high risk, research examining disordered eating in this population is limited and difficult to summarize due to differences in methodologies. Factors contributing to disordered eating in female college athletes are not well established, but emotional regulation may be a potential correlate. The main purpose of this study was to examine the prevalence of disordered eating and explore potential differences between weight-sensitive and less weight-sensitive sports in a sample of female college athletes. The second purpose was to examine emotional regulation, body dissatisfaction, sport type, a family history of eating disorder, and BMI as potential predictors of disordered eating. The Eating Attitudes Test-26 and the Minnesota Eating Behavior Survey were used to estimate disordered eating prevalence in a sample of 151 athletes. Emotion regulation was assessed by the Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale. The prevalence of disordered eating was 6.6% and 10.6%, respectively, with no differences by sport type. The multiple regression model explained 11% of the EAT-26 variance, F(5, 150) = 3.74, p < .01. Greater emotional regulation difficulties (β = .174, t = 2.191, p = .03) and body dissatisfaction (β = .276, t = 2.878, p = .005) were significant predictors of disordered eating. Further examination of emotional regulation and body dissatisfaction in relation to disordered eating in female college athletes is warranted.
Shriver is with the Dept. of Nutrition, University of North Carolina Greensboro, Greensboro, NC. Wollenberg and Gates are with the Dept. of Nutritional Sciences, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK.