Eating attitudes: The extent and risks of disordered eating among amateur athletes from various sports in Gauteng, South Africa

  • Rudolph L. van Niekerk
  • Melissa Card


Background: Preoccupation around eating and disordered eating of professional athletes has extensively been discussed in the literature. However, the extent of disordered eating behaviours at the non-professional or amateur club level in South African sport has not received the same amount of attention.

Objectives: This study attempted to determine the extent of disordered eating behaviours among amateur athletes to identify the athletes at risk of developing an eating disorder. Group differences and predictive factors were explored to determine factors associated with disordered eating behaviours among amateur sporting athletes.

Methods: A purposive sample of athletes (n = 278) with a mean age of 27 ± 11.30 years, from various sports clubs in Central Gauteng (in and around Johannesburg), were asked to complete the Eating Attitudes Test-26 and Sport Competition Anxiety Test. Data analysis included descriptive statistics, independent samples t-tests, analysis of variance (ANOVA) and logistic regression.

Results: The results indicated that 14.7% of athletes were at risk of developing an eating disorder, while some engaged in excessive weight control behaviour which put them at risk. Gender and weight control strategies were important indicators associated with the risk of developing an eating disorder. The athletes’ gender, level of participation and body mass index (BMI) were important predictors of the risk to develop an eating disorder.

Conclusion: Indicators of eating disorder risk among club-level amateur athletes are gender, binge eating, vomiting and using laxatives to control weight. These behaviours predominately found in female athletes seem to put them at a greater risk of developing an eating disorder.


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2078-6786
print ISSN: 1608-9685