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Female College Athletes Get Honest About Body Image

ESPNW surveyed Division 1 female athletes to answer 13 questions. Learn their respones, and which sport has the highest association of body image issues.

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When we see athletes performing in their element on courts, fields, boxing rings, and arenas, they often appear strong, confident, and, sometimes, even invincible. But do these women whose careers are founded on their bodies’ capabilities ever suffer from body image issues? How prevalent are eating disorders in female college athletes? ESPNW conducted an anonymous survey of 201 Division 1 female college athletes to learn how they feel about their bodies. Are they afraid of becoming too muscular? Do they feel pressure to be pretty? Do they worry about weight? The student athletes answered 13 questions and the ESPNW editors compiled the results. Here are some of their stats and responses. Visit ESPNW for the full survey results:

  • 54% devote 15 or more hours per week strictly to physical conditioning of their bodies. 
  • 70% of survey respondents said they weren't afraid of becoming too muscular. 
  • 68% responded that they felt pressure to be pretty. With one softball player stating “[Being pretty] helps in undeniable ways (people notice you more, talk to you more, helps with job recruiting)."  
  • 86% of the student athletes said they never had an eating disorder. But, 
12 out of 37 rowers said yes, which was the highest of any sport. (Read more about the weight pressures rowers face in ESPNW’s exclusive story.)  

To honor the 70% stat, ESPNW asked some elite female athletes how they felt about their muscles, like boxers Claressa Shields, Laila Ali, CrossFitter Brooke Ence, and more. Women's freestyle wrestler and 2016 Team USA Olympian Adeline Gray, 26, contributed a photo and said this about her muscles: "I have feared my back looking manly or big, but every time I make gains I am so pleased, and it makes me feel beautiful and toned." It’s no secret that at Muscle & Fitness Hers, we love muscles. Check out some of our favorite “muscular women” included in our list of 11 Strongest Women of All Time, and these IFBB Pros Who Share Tips for Competition Prep.  

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