Running on Empty

Temporary Eating Disorders in Female Athletes


  • Veronica Kim Student


In sports that carry high aesthetic value, such as running or dance, female athletes are disproportionately affected by eating disorders, with nearly 70 percent suffering from an eating disorder throughout their lifetimes. This paper seeks to identify and diagnose a particular type of eating disorder—a temporary eating disorder—that affects female athletes, and to differentiate this disorder from more long-term conditions such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. In particular, it is argued that temporary eating disorders are largely performance-oriented, meaning that athletes who suffer from these conditions are motivated by a desire to achieve perfection in personal performance, rather than to attain a certain self-image. This paper cites five interviews with anonymous female athletes who suffered temporary eating disorders throughout their high school athletic careers, hypothesizing that temporary eating disorders are more common in high school athletes due the temporary nature of high-school athletic seasons, as opposed to the seasons of collegiate or professional athletes. The paper also proposes a more organized system of disordered eating education in high schools to effectively prevent the development of these types of conditions. Further academic conversations on this topic would include additional research to understand and more concretely define the parameters of a temporary eating disorder, either separate from or in conjunction to better-understood long-term eating disorders.