This study extended the examination of the eating disorders continuum to the population of female athletes. Participants (215 collegiate gymnasts) were classified as normal/nondisordered eaters, exercisers, bingers, dieter/restricters, subthreshold bulimics, or bulimics and were then compared on several personality and attitudinal measures. Results revealed that (a) over 60% of the gymnasts met the criteria for one of the intermediate disordered eating categories, (b) only 22% reported eating behaviors that could be classified as normal or nondisordered, and (c) higher levels of disordered eating disturbance, particularly bulimia nervosa, were associated with a desire to weigh less, lower body satisfaction, lower self-esteem, and greater endorsement of sociocultural values regarding women's attractiveness. The findings provide partial support for the eating continuum in female athletes, and suggest that disordered eating may be the normative behavior in this population. Implications for interventions as well as directions for future research are provided.
Trent A. Petrie is with the Department of Psychology at the University of North Texas, P.O. Box 13587, Denton, TX 76203-3587.