Wrestling Eating Disorders

Wrestling is one of the most physically demanding sports, and as such, wrestlers are often encouraged to maintain a strict diet in order to keep their weight at an optimal level. Unfortunately, this can sometimes lead to dangerous eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.

These types of disordered eating can have serious physical and mental health consequences for wrestlers if not addressed early on.

In this article, we will explore the risks associated with wrestling with eating disorders as well as some strategies for combating them.

Table of Contents

a wrestler with eating disorder

Do Wrestlers Struggle With Eating Disorders?

Yes, unfortunately, many wrestlers do struggle with eating disorders. Eating disorders are more commonly seen in male athletes than female athletes, and wrestling is no exception. A 2012 study of NCAA wrestlers found that 13% had an eating disorder, with the majority being classified as having either anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa.

What Are the Risks of Wrestling With an Eating Disorder?

The most serious risk of wrestling with an eating disorder is that it can lead to severe physical and mental health problems. Anorexia nervosa, for example, can lead to muscle wasting, dehydration, and electrolyte imbalances which can lead to many other common wrestling injuries. Bulimia nervosa can cause damage to the esophagus, teeth, and heart due to purging. Additionally, both types of eating disorders can cause depression and anxiety.

The Signs of Disordered Eating

It is important to recognize the signs of disordered eating and take steps to address them. Some of the common signs to look out for include drastic changes in weight, an obsession with calorie counting, extreme guilt or shame when eating, and compulsively exercising. If any of these behaviors are present, it is important to seek help from a professional.

What Factors Cause Eating Disorders Among Wrestlers?

Eating disorders among wrestlers can be caused by factors such as:

Pressure From Coaches or Teammates to Maintain a Certain Body Weight

Wrestlers are often placed on strict diets in order to maintain the necessary weight for their division. Unfortunately, this can lead to unhealthy behaviors such as extreme caloric restriction and over-exercising.

Body Image Issues

Many wrestlers feel pressure to look a certain way in order to perform better. As a result, they may develop an unhealthy obsession with their body image and attempt to achieve an unrealistic or unhealthy ideal. Many pro wrestlers give too much importance to their looks, therefore, they are also looking for an attractive look that includes wet hair, long sideburns, and other hairstyles.

Fear of Being Judged Based on Body Size or Shape

Wrestlers may be afraid of being judged by their peers or coaches if they don’t have the “ideal” body size or shape. This fear can lead to compulsive dieting and exercise in order to maintain a certain weight or physique.

Psychological Issues Related to Self-esteem or Perfectionism

Some wrestlers may have underlying psychological issues, such as low self-esteem or perfectionism, that can contribute to the development of an eating disorder.

What Strategies Can Wrestlers Use to Prevent Eating Disorders?

Be Aware of the Warning Signs

The most important step that wrestlers can take to prevent or address eating disorders is to be aware of the warning signs. Common signs include drastic weight loss or gain, obsession with food and/or dieting, and avoiding meals. Additionally, wrestlers should seek support from family and friends if they suspect that they might have an eating disorder.

Focus on Healthy Eating Habits

It’s also important for wrestlers to focus on healthy eating habits rather than extreme diets. Eating a balanced diet with plenty of lean proteins, fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats can help wrestlers to maintain a healthy weight without sacrificing nutrition. Staying physically active is also important for physical health as well as mental health.

Try to Train at Home to Avoid Outside Pressures

Finally, wrestlers should try to train at home as much as possible to avoid pressure from teammates and coaches. Wrestling workouts at home can be just as effective, and it can help wrestlers to focus more on their physical health rather than the pressure of conforming to an “ideal” body type.

Seek Professional Help if Necessary

Finally, it’s important for wrestlers to seek professional help if necessary. A doctor or dietitian can provide personalized advice on healthy eating habits and help to identify underlying issues that might be contributing to disordered eating.

Where is It More Common: Amateur Wrestling or Pro Wrestling?

Eating disorders are more common in amateur wrestling because of the intense pressure to maintain certain body weights and sizes. Professional wrestlers have more control over their weight and body shape, so they are less likely to suffer from eating disorders. Moreover, pro wrestlers usually have more options for seeking help if needed and special dieticians to help them maintain a healthy diet.

Is It Common on College or High School Wrestling Teams?

Eating disorders are unfortunately common on college and high school wrestling teams due to the intense pressure to perform. This pressure is especially intense at the college and high school levels, as wrestlers are often competing for scholarships or other accolades. Therefore, it is important for coaches, trainers, and parents to be aware of the warning signs and intervene if necessary.


Eating disorders are a serious issue among wrestlers and can have devastating consequences. It is important to be aware of the warning signs, focuses on healthy eating habits, and seek professional help if needed. By taking the necessary steps to prevent or address disordered eating, wrestlers can maintain a healthy weight and still enjoy the sport they love.


Q: Are Wrestlers Bulimic?

A: While it is not uncommon for some wrestlers to develop eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, it is important to recognize that not all wrestlers are bulimic. It is important to be aware of the warning signs of disordered eating so that wrestlers can seek help if needed.

Q: How Do Wrestlers Cut Weight So Fast?

A: While some wrestlers may resort to extreme methods such as fasting or dehydration in order to cut weight quickly, these methods can be dangerous and should be avoided. Healthy weight-cutting strategies involve gradual caloric restriction combined with exercise and an overall focus on healthy nutrition and lifestyle habits.

Q: What percent of wrestlers have an eating disorder?

A: Studies have found that anywhere from 1 to 20 percent of wrestlers suffer from an eating disorder. The prevalence of disordered eating is dependent on a variety of factors, such as weight class and culture. It is important to note that eating disorders are serious mental health issues that should be addressed in order to ensure wrestlers’ safety and well-being.

Q: Do Wrestlers Get Anorexia?

A: Some wrestlers may develop anorexia nervosa, which is an eating disorder characterized by restrictive eating and fear of gaining weight.