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Although researchers have examined eating disorders in female athletes, few such studies have been done with athletes who are retired, and even fewer have been quantitative. Thus, the authors empirically tested an established eating disorder theoretical model with 218 former NCAA Division-I female collegiate athletes who had been retired for 2–6 years. In retirement, participants completed measures of general sociocultural pressures related to body and appearance, thin-ideal internalization, body dissatisfaction, dietary restraint, negative affect, and bulimic symptomatology. Through structural equation modeling, the authors examined the direct and indirect relationships among the latent variables while controlling for body mass index and years since retirement. The model fit the data well, supporting the hypothesized direct and indirect relationships among the variables and explaining 54% of the variance in bulimic symptomatology. Despite no longer being exposed to sport pressures that contribute to eating disorders, female athletes experience such symptoms long into retirement.
The authors are with the Dept. of Psychology, University of North Texas, Denton, TX, USA.