Modern culture has stereotyped the female body as one that is continually getting thinner. Internalization of the ‘thin’ ideal is partly attributable to the inner ideal to be successful combined with the external pressure imposed by media and others. Many individuals attempt to achieve these ideals by behavior modification that imposes health risks.
To investigate disordered eating (DE) behavior and energy status in female student dancers.
Volunteer dancers (n = 26) aged 19.0 (18.0; 21.0) years, matched by controls (n = 26) aged 20.0 (19.0; 21.0) years were recruited. Eating Disorder Inventory-3 (EDI-3) subscales, Three-factor Eating Questionnaire (TFEQ) Cognitive Dietary Restraint (CDR) subscale, and EDI-3 Referral Form behavioral questions assessed DE behavior. Energy status was assessed with a food record and Actiheart monitor.
Dancers achieved significantly higher scores than controls in all questionnaires, namely: EDI-3 Drive for Thinness [12.0 (3.0; 19.0) vs. 4.5 (2.0; 9.0), p = .023], EDI-3 Body Dissatisfaction [16.0 (10.0; 25.0) vs. 6.5 (3.0; 14.0), p = .004], and TFEQ-CDR [9.0 (2.0; 15.0) vs. 3.0 (3.0; 7.0), p = .032]; dancers used excessive exercise to lose weight (19.2% vs. 0%, c2 = 5.53, p = .019), and had lower energy availability (24% vs. 8%, p < .05) than controls. The average energy balance (EB) was negative for both groups [dancers: EB = -3896 (-5236; -1222) vs. controls: EB = -2639 (-4744; -789) kJ/day].
Female dancers are at risk for DE behavior and many have suboptimal energy status which may be related to their quest to achieve a more desirable appearance; education on healthy weight management practices is needed.
Robbeson and Kruger are with the Faculty of Health Sciences, Centre of Excellence for Nutrition, Potchefstroom, South Africa. Wright is with the School of Health and Sport Sciences, University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia.