Prevalence of Eating Disorders and Disordered Eating Behaviors Among Male Collegiate Athletes

Psychology of Men & Masculinity
2008, Vol. 9, No. 4, 267-277

Copyright 2008 by the American Psychological Association
1524-9220/08/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/a0013178

Prevalence of Eating Disorders and Disordered Eating Behaviors
Among Male Collegiate Athletes

Trent A. Petrie and Christy Greenleaf
University of North Texas

Justine Reel
University of Utah

Jennifer Carter
Center for Healthy Living
Male athletes have been hypothesized to be at increased risk for disordered eating
attitudes and behaviors due to unique pressures in the sport environment. In this study,
203 male collegiate athletes from three universities completed the Questionnaire for
Eating Disorder Diagnosis (QEDD; Mintz, O'Halloran, Mulholland, & Schneider,
1997) as well as provided information on binge eating and pathogenic weight control
behaviors. None were classified with a clinical eating disorder, though almost 20%
reported a sufficient number and level of symptoms to be considered symptomatic. Just
over 80% had no significant eating disorder concerns and were classified as asymp-
tomatic. Neither year in school, race/ethnicity, sport type, nor age were related to
whether or not the athletes were symptomatic or asymptomatic. In terms of the athletes'
body mass, fewer than 2% were underweight and 66% were classified as overweight or
obese according to CDC guidelines; over 60% were satisfied with their current body
weight. Although the frequency of pathogenic behaviors was low, exercise (37%) and
fasting/dieting (14.2%) were the primary and secondary means for controlling weight;
fewer than 10% used vomiting, laxatives, or diuretics.
Keywords: eating disorders, pathogenic weight control, male athletes

Over the past 2 decades, the social value and
meanings given to men's bodies have changed.
In the past, men were valued because of their
abilities and accomplishments; today, however,
men's bodies play an integral role in the social
construction of masculinity (Soban, 2006). In
Western society, being a "real man" means be-
ing tough (emotionally and physically), not ad-
mitting pain or illness (particularly mental ill-
ness or something that would be considered a
"woman's problem," such as an eating disor-
Trent A. Petrie, Department of Psychology, University of
North Texas; Christy Greenleaf, Department of KHPR, Uni-
versity of North Texas; Justine Reel, Department of Health
Promotion and Education, University of Utah; Jennifer
Carter, Center for Healthy Living, Worthington, Ohio.
This study was funded by grants from the National Col-
legiate Athletic Association and the Association for the
Advancement of Applied Sport Psychology.
Correspondence concerning this article should be ad-
dressed to Trent A. Petrie, Department of Psychology, PO
Box 311280, University of North Texas, Denton, TX 76203.
E-mail: petriet@unt.edu

der), being competitive, and having a desirable
and socially ideal physique. This socially ideal-
ized physique, which is lean, muscular, strong,
and powerful, is to be achieved through work
and discipline (physical activity, exercise, and
training) and is seen as an outward sign or
symbol of masculinity (Drummond, 2002; Gill,
Henwood, & McLean, 2005). It is not surpris-
ing, then, that the bodies of male athletes are
often idealized.
The sociocultural environment and the so-
cial construction of the male gender role have
been identified as primary reasons why men
are vulnerable for becoming body dissatisfied
and developing disordered eating attitudes and
behaviors, and why men may be hesitant or
even unwilling to admit to engaging in such
behaviors and holding such pathological atti-
tudes that traditionally have been viewed as a
"woman's problem" (Cafri et al., 2005; Ric-
ciardelli & McCabe, 2004). Indeed, research
has documented the presence, and development
over time, of this lean and muscular body ideal

267

Petrie, Trent A.; Greenleaf, Christy; Reel, Justine J. & Carter, Jennifer. Prevalence of Eating Disorders and Disordered Eating Behaviors Among Male Collegiate Athletes. [Washington, D.C.]. UNT Digital Library. http://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc31092/. Accessed August 29, 2014.