Table 1

Characteristics of eating disorders versus disordered eating in elite athletes (reprinted with permission from The IOC Consensus Statement on Mental Health in Elite Sport5)

Eating disordersDisordered eating
Restricting, bingeing or purging often occur multiple times per weekPathogenic 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 timeThoughts of food and eating do not occupy most of the day
Eating patterns and obsessions preclude normal functioning in life activitiesFunctioning usually remains intact
Preoccupation with ‘healthy eating’ leads to significant dietary restrictionThere 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 carbsWhile exercise may not be regularly used in excessive amount to purge calories, there may be a cognitive focus on burning calories when exercising