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“Horrible—But Worth It”: Exploring Weight Cutting Practices, Eating Behaviors, and Experiences of Competitive Female Taekwon-Do Athletes. A Mixed Methods Study

Karen A. Smith, Robert J. Naughton, Carl Langan-Evans, and Kiara Lewis

This mixed methods study aimed to investigate weight cutting practices of female taekwon-do athletes internationally and explore their experiences of “making weight.” A survey of weight loss practices and eating behaviors was completed by 103 taekwon-do athletes from 12 countries, which illustrated that 72.5% of athletes engage in both acute and chronic weight loss practices prior to competition and that there were higher levels of disordered eating within this athletic population than nonweight cutting athletes. Semistructured interviews were conducted with five international-level competitors; thematic analysis of the interviews identified that the women in general felt weight cutting was “horrible—but worth it” and the women believed that (a) weight cutting is unpleasant, difficult, and challenging; and (b) weight cutting provides a competitive advantage. The implications of this study are that weight cutting is widespread among high-level competitive female taekwon-do athletes and this is unlikely to change given the perceived advantages. Efforts are needed to make sure that the women are knowledgeable of the risks and are provided with safe and effective means of making weight.