Eating disorders are serious mental diseases that frequently appear in female athletes. They are abnormal eating behaviors that can be diagnosed only by strict criteria. Disordered eating, although also characterized as abnormal eating behavior, does not include all the criteria for diagnosing eating disorders and is therefore a way to recognize the problem in its early stages. It is important to identify factors to avoid clinical progression in this high-risk population. Therefore, the purpose of this review is to discuss critical information for the prevention of eating disorders in female athletes. This review discusses the major correlates for the development of an eating disorder. We also discuss which athletes are possibly at highest risk for eating disorders, including those from lean sports and female adolescent athletes. There is an urgent need for the demystification of myths surrounding body weight and performance in sports. This review includes studies that tested different prevention programs' effectiveness, and the majority showed positive results. Educational programs are the best method for primary prevention of eating disorders. For secondary prevention, early identification is essential and should be performed by preparticipation exams, the recognition of dietary markers, and the use of validated self-report questionnaires or clinical interviews. In addition, more randomized clinical trials are needed with athletes from multiple sports in order for the most reliable recommendations to be made and for some sporting regulations to be changed.
Keywords: anorexia nervosa; bulimia nervosa; disordered eating; female athlete triad; nutrition; sport.