Table 5

Characteristics of eating disorders versus disordered eating in elite athletes1 274 736

Eating disordersDisordered eating
  • Restricting, bingeing or purging often occur multiple times per week

  • Pathogenic behaviours used to control weight (eg, occasional restricting, use of diet pills, bingeing, purging or use of saunas or 'sweat runs') may occur but not with regularity

  • Obsessions with thoughts of food and eating occur much of the time

  • Thoughts of food and eating do not occupy most of the day

  • Eating patterns and obsessions preclude normal functioning in life activities

  • Functioning usually remains intact

  • Preoccupation with 'healthy eating' leads to significant dietary restriction

  • There may be preoccupation with 'healthy eating' or significant attention to caloric or nutritional parameters of most foods eaten but intake remains acceptable

  • Excessive exercise beyond that recommended by coaches may be explicitly used as a frequent means of purging calories

  • While exercise may not be regularly used in excessive amounts to purge calories, there may be a cognitive focus on burning calories when exercising