Pathogenic weight control measures and disordered eating behaviour of female student dancers
Robbeson, Justine Gail
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Background: Modern culture has stereotyped the divine female body as one that is continually getting leaner, with the internalization of the “thin” ideal possibly resulting in body dissatisfaction, disturbances in body image and exploitation of extreme weight control measures. These shoddy eating behaviours/attitudes may involve body mass and figure anxiety, sub-optimal nutrition or insufficient energy intake (possibly even a combination of both) and use of pathogenic weight control measures (PWCM). Furthermore, low energy availability can be a consequence of disordered eating (DE) behaviour, but can also inadvertently emerge in the absence of clinical eating disorders, DE behaviours and/or restricted dietary intake. Various researchers have concluded that dancers are overly-concerned about dieting and their body mass, and tend to be discontented with their bodies. Every organ system in the body may potentially be negatively affected as a result of the ensuing undernourishment and/or weight loss related to poor nutritional behaviour. The aim of the study was to investigate the DE behaviour, PWCM use, body image and energy status of a group of University female dancers Methods: Fifty two volunteer (18-30 years) dancers (n=26) matched by controls (n=26) of the same race, and comparable age and body mass index were recruited. DE behaviour was assessed with the Eating disorder inventory-3 (EDI3), Cognitive dietary restraint (CDR) subscale of the Three-factor eating questionnaire (TFEQ) and EDI3 referral form (EDI3-RF) behavioural questions. Body image was assessed using the Body Silhouette Assessment Scale. Energy status was assessed using a 5-day weighed food record to measure energy intake and Actiheart® monitor to measure energy expenditure. Results: Dancers presented with significantly higher EDI3-Drive for thinness, EDI3-Body dissatisfaction and TFEQ-CDR raw subscale scores when compared to controls. Furthermore, the majority of dancers scored above the designated cut-off scores for the EDI3-Drive for thinness (46.2%), EDI3-Body dissatisfaction (61.5%), EDI-Bulimia (53.9%) and TFEQ-CDR (52.0%) subscales. Bingeing was the most common PWCM used by both dancers and controls (19.2% vs. 23.1%), followed by weight loss ≥ 9kg within the preceding 6 months (11.5% vs. 15.4%). Vomiting (7.7%), laxatives (11.5%) and excessive exercise (19.2%) for weight loss were used only by the dancers. Current body weight was significantly different to desired body weight for the dancers only (p=0.0004). The discrepancy between current and ideal body image, also termed Feel Minus Ideal Discrepancy (FID), was significantly different between dancers and controls, and indicated that controls were content with their body silhouette while dancers were inclined to want to lose weight. A negative energy balance was found in 80.8% of both dancers and controls. The energy availability of 48.0% of dancers and 52.0% of controls was between 30 and 45 kcal/kg fat-free mass/day. A total of 65.4% of dancers and 38.5% of controls reported to be currently trying to lose weight. Conclusion: Irrespective of the limitations of this study, noteworthy observations were made pertaining to the DE behaviour, body image, and energy status of a group of South African student women dancers. This group of South African university women dancers were vulnerable to DE behaviour, had a propensity to be greatly displeased with their body image, and possessed a low energy status possibly because they were trying to lose weight.
- Health Sciences