Eating for Excellence: Eating Disorders in Elite Sport: Inevitability and Immunity

The primary focus of this research was how and why the experience of being an (sub-/)elite sport performer manifests itself in dietary decisions. This is considered a necessary and novel addition to existing literature which has tended to focus on attempting to develop the most effective nutritional practice to facilitate performance enhancement or pathologising the current behaviour of performers, from a narrow selection of sports, and suggesting how to “cure” this behaviour.

The argument of this paper is that (sub-/)elite sports performers are strongly affected by a “discourse of excellence” and that it is this discourse which most significantly impacts their dietary decisions; causing them to “eat for excellence”. This is illustrated in part by the increased risk of developing pathological eating behaviours whilst competing. However, using data derived from interviews with eleven (sub-/)elite performers, this study makes an original contribution by exploring how and why being guided by the same discourse of excellence can lead other performers to develop “immunity” to such disorders.