Nutritional needs usually vary with age, sex, profession and many other factors (Dana, 2000, p.2). Different people in different times or conditions require specific diets so that their bodies can function as expected during that time.

For example, at different stages of a baby’s growth, nutritional needs also vary. The same case applies to people in the profession of modelling, where diet is the greatest thing to watch out lest you want to be disqualified (Novick, 1999, p.5150). People in sports are no exception since nutrition is also very dear to them hence the need for a sport’s nutritionist to give proper advice on the stipulated diet. This is due to the fact that sports are physical activities involving most of the energy loss from the body.

Background Information

For sports people to perform well in their activities they have to be under the required diet (Dana, 2000, p.

1). Thus, nutritionists come in to advise them on their bodies’ requirements before, during and after performance. Past research has indicated that most sports people have turned to the use of supplements in addition to food mostly because of the limited time they have. In some cases, this may result to abuse of the supplements which results to various side effects. Other than this, most sports people suffer from a number of eating disorders. Some of these eating disorders include bulimia or anorexia nervosa (Novick, 1999, p.5150).

Anorexia nervosa is a psychological disorder leads to low intake of food by an individual. It is a syndrome that not only occurs in sports people but may also occur in expectant women, invalids, depressed and stressed individuals. On the other hand, bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder that increases appetite in an individual such that he or she overeats. Most of the people who have this syndrome take the food after which they force themselves to vomit afterwards.

This research is therefore of great importance in the field of Kinesiology which studies how the nutritional intake of an individual relates to the body movements (Picard, 1999, p.587).

Theoretical framework

Human beings are said to be social animals who involve in a number of activities in their day to day life. As people socialise, they learn a lot from their fellows and the experience they undergo. This is what defines the social cognitive theory in human beings.

The sports people are no exception in this since their profession gives them room to meet and interact with so many people. However, self efficacy and perception is required during these interactions where an individual is able to trust their own actions as well as welcoming any form of motivation accorded to them. Such people will have inside motivation hence their performance will be better than those who lack self efficacy who will in most instances avoid the sport and attribute the poor performance to inability. The achievement goal theory can thus be used as a theoretical framework where proper diet will be provided to the sports people thereafter monitoring their body image and performance.

This framework will also be connected to the self determination theory since the study group will be monitored for any changes in the zeal and stamina to perform. A correlation of the performance and eating habits of the sports people will be done and especially those with eating disorders.


Are there any significant differences in the body image perception between the sports and non-sports people? Is there a correlation between the nutritional intake and body image of sports people? What is the importance of body image among the sports people? These are some of the questions that are to be answered after conducting this research.

Results of various studies done on body image and eating disorders among sports people

For a long time, the field of sports technology had been neglected until recently when sports began being recognised as part of economical development of any nation. This therefore made so many researchers to venture into this field to uncover any obstacles in a bid to improving sports in general. Some of the researchers specialised in the diet of the sports people so as to find out if and how it affected their performance. Others ventured into research based on body image perception between gender types. All the research done was of help to the athletes’ federation as the results got could be used to advance the sport technology round the globe.

Just like the other professionals, people in the sports profession have their own different conception about body image (Fox, 1997, p.1). The body image perception further breaks down into gender type and the different types of sports. A study carried out on the correlation of gender and participation in sports indicated that most female athletes developed a high esteem with regards to their bodies and themselves. This as a result made them view themselves to have higher masculinity as compared to their fellow females who did not participate in athletes (Long, 2002, p.3). Body image is therefore very important in sports people as it acts as the motivating factor in their profession.

As mentioned above that most sports will admit people on the basis of their body mass and weight, it becomes therefore necessary for an individual to watch out on the type of diet they need so as to have the desired body image (Ciervo, 1998, p.1901). Another research based on a test model that specified the perceptions of body image in the two genders participating in sports showed that females in the aged 18 to 22 had a positive perception on their physical competence after exercises (Zucker, 1999, p.210). This therefore indicated it was worth educating females of this age other than men since they had a positive view of the outcome. It can also be argued out that during this age specification, the females tend to be more concerned about their body images.


The body image of an individual speaks so much about the person. Therefore in circumstances where one is not contended on their body image then psychological problems arise (Baum, 2006, p.23).

These problems may have been brought about by poor eating habits in a bid to achieve a desired body shape or weight. As a matter of fact eating disorders play the greatest role in problems arising about body image. This is because eating disorders lead to a disorder known as the Body Dysmorphic Disorder. The body dysmorphic disorder is a change in the body structure and appearance of an individual that in the end leads to distress and at times reduced functionality of the individual. This is very crucial to the sports people as effects in their functionality leads to an automatic decline in performance of the sport (Long, 2002, p.3). Some of the factors that may lead to eating disorders in sports people include the following; Performance pressure- This comes about when the people participating in sports are expected to perform in them.

This may negatively influence an individual making them to concentrate on performance while neglecting their diet (Zucker, 1999, p.210). When there is a misconception between body mass and performance- Some people in different sports may have the wrong conception on the relation of weight and resulting performance.

For example a heavy weight doing athletes may have the notion that only light bodied individuals are eligible in this sport. This as a result may make such a person suffer from anorexia nervosa by declining food in a bid to achieving a slender body. Weight based sports- Some sports like wrestling, boxing, taekwondo and others admit people on weight basis.

An individual may thus be influenced by such a factor if at all they want to join such sports. Demand in energy- Most sports require energy to perform, as a result most sports people may decide to be on an energy giving diet only hence neglecting the other food types. Another potential cause of eating disorders among the sports people is the influence from peers who their judgement on body image may affect the eating habits of an individual.

Close relation with people who have eating disorders may also be a potential influence, like in the cases of models who work to be size twelve by eating poorly. Despite all these, with a strong social support network within the sports people eating disorders may be an easy task to work on. This is because people will encourage those with poor eating habits by educating them on the possible effects of eating disorders as well as the benefits of proper diet in sports and health.

Effects of eating disorders

The sports people are greatly affected by poor eating habits hence the need for a sports nutritionist to advise them (Ciervo, 1998, p.

1901). The major effect is decreased performance in the sport. For example, a boxer who has a lesser body mass is most often out done by those with higher body mass who may be a little bit stronger as compared to them. Another effect is disqualification from the sport participants which have great people who rely on sports to bread win their families. Last but not least is the psychological distress that accompanies unacceptable body image. The depression reverses back to the poor performance in the sport (Shelby, 2000, p.


Prevention of eating disorders

Eating disorders may be prevented by frequently educating the sports people on the effects and possible dangers of the syndromes (Baum, 2006, p.23).

It is also advisable that the nutritionist in charge watch out for the possible patients of these conditions. This can be done before, during and even once the performances have been completed. It is a tradition that all sports people are checked on possibility of being under the influence of drugs or over intake of supplements (Sherwood, 2002, p.341). This is usually done with the intention of making sure that the sports people are under the appropriate diet. These syndromes have no medication as a form of treatment. Instead the only person who can eradicate it is the patient himself but after guidance from a psychiatrist or nutritionist.

Most studies done have also shown that eating disorders are common in the females more than they are in males. This is because females are very sensitive on any changes in their bodies. Their male counterparts care less and only get concerned once they have been asked to (Smolak, 2000, p.

372). Because of this, it is thus necessary to put more emphasis on the male sports people who show little concern. By doing this, the whole sports team will be empowered with knowledge hence improving the general performance of the sport.


The above discussion gives a clear indication of how serious the matter on eating disorders may be on the sports people. Most sports people also want to fit in the contemporary world and not the sports sector only (Katharine, 2004, p.1). As a result there is confusion on what body image to acquire depending on their priorities.

This commonly happens in female athletes who may want to retain their feminine image yet they want to participate in the sport. Further research has also shown that eating disorders among the sports people is not only individual based but at times the coaches play a significant role. The coaches may disregard people with certain body images and in turn greatly affect their eating habits. Recent studies have also indicated that the situation at hand on eating disorders in sports people is now taking control.

It has been found out that eating disorders have now shifted from the athletes to the non-athletes. The main reason behind this is because of the high concentration on sports people so as to make sure their eating habits are up to date, while neglecting the other group of people. So much has been invested in the name of making sure the sports people get the proper nutritional guidance especially in nations that value sports (Katharine, 2004, p.1).

This assumption is what has led to the current position of nutrition among people globally.

Reference List

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583-594. Sherwood, N et al (2002). Weight-related sports involvement in girls: Who is at risk? for disordered eating? American Journal of Health Promotion, 16, 341-344. Shelby, S. (2000).

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Smolak, L. et al (2000). Female athletes and eating problems: A meta-analysis. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 27, pp.

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html Zucker, N. et al (1999). Protective factors for eating disorders in female college athletes. The Journal of Treatment & Prevention of Eating Disorders: vol 7, pp.207-218.


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