Disordered eating is a psychological ailment that befalls many athletes and can persist into retirement. Links have been established between disordered eating and societal and sport-specific pressures; however, little research has focused on the perspective of retired athletes in a time-based sport. The purpose of the current research was to explore the conceptualization of disordered eating in relation to swimming participation, how retirement affects eating patterns, and ways to mitigate disordered eating. Following IPA methodological guidelines, a homogeneous sample of retired swimmers (N = 6) was chosen for semistructured, participant-driven interviews determined by scores on a disordered-eating questionnaire. Three superordinate themes were revealed: (1) pressures unique to swimming, (2) transition to eating pattern awareness, and (3) maintaining ideal eating patterns in retirement. The results revealed a combination of novel findings and expansion of previous data on disordered eating. Suggestions for applications of current findings and for future research are also discussed.
Cooper and Winter are with the School of Sport, Health and Applied Science, St Mary’s University, London, UK.