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Social comparison theory underscores the importance placed on comparing one's body to others. For an athlete, one's teammates provide a salient basis for comparison related to size, shape, and weight. Male and female athletes from diverse sports, including cross-country runners, divers, and gymnasts, overwhelmingly reported teammate pressures at the college level (Galli, Reel, Petrie, Greenleaf, & Carter, 2011; Reel, SooHoo, Petrie, Greenleaf, & Carter, 2010). We recommend that athletes be discouraged from making weight-related or appearance-oriented comments about themselves or other athletes. For example, stunt partners should avoid criticizing their partners for weight changes (Selby & Reel, 2011). Of course, this type of climate needs to be supported and encouraged from the top down (i.e., by coaches and athletic directors).

Weight Requirements and Weigh-Ins

To participate in their sport, some college athletes face weight limits (e.g., cheerleading) or weight classes (e.g., wrestling) that require regular weigh- ins. More than half (54%) of college cheerleaders reported try-out weight limits for their squad, with 40% of women and 41 % of men being weighed in throughout the season. Male athletes in sports such as fencing (50%), wrestling (50%), and football (33%) also identified sport-related weight requirements (Galli et al., 2011).

We recommend that health professionals and counselors work with college athletic directors and sports federations to eliminate weight requirements and weigh-ins. Weight limits may set athletes up for unhealthy dieting practices. A registered dietician should challenge unrealistic weight-loss or weight-gain goals, discourage weight-based goal setting on teams, and monitor weight-related goal setting only when absolutely necessary (Reel, 2012). Similarly, weigh-ins should be avoided to discourage an overemphasis on weight, but medical weigh-ins should be conducted privately by a medical professional (Selby & Reel, 2011).

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