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Beyond food as fuel: Women athletes' relationship to food, sporting cultures, and body ideals

Thesis type
(Thesis) M.A.
Date created
This thesis examines women athletes' relationship to food through a critical feminist lens to reveal how the ideal athletic female body is constructed at the intersection of race, class, and sexuality. Although body ideals vary across sporting cultures, idealized bodies are generally unattainable, with their pursuit emphasizing individual effort, dietary discipline, and bodily control. Interviews with nine women athletes from a variety of sports and two coaches of women's teams at a NCAA Division II university provide the data for the thesis which centres the voices of athletes in the conversation about disordered eating and women's health in sport. An emphasis on food as "fuel" for the body, a focus on eating for health, and the resonant silences around disordered eating in the interviews demonstrate that food and nutrition become instruments for controlling the (unruly) athletic body. At the same time, women athletes' counter-narratives of agency demonstrate their resistance to hegemonic bodily control in sport.
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