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A growing body of evidence suggests that the prevalence of eating disorders and excessive concerns regarding body weight in certain subpopulations of female athletes are increasing. The pressure on female athletes to improve their performances and physiques, coupled with the general sociocultural demand placed on all women to be thin, often results in attempts to achieve unrealistic body size and body weight goals. For some female athletes the pressure to achieve and maintain a low body weight leads to potentially harmful patterns of restrictive eating or chronic dieting. This paper seeks to further delineate the characteristics of a recently identified subclinical eating disorder in female athletes: anorexia athletica. Research studies that support the existence of subclinical eating disorders will be reviewed. In addition, the possible physiological and psychological consequences of subclinical eating disorders will be explored.
K.A. Beals is with the Department of Exercise Science and Physical Education, and M.M. Manore is with the Department of Family Resources and Human Development, Arizona State University, Box 872502, Tempe, AZ 85287-2502. Request reprints from M.M. Manore.