Retired athletes and the intersection of food and body: A systematic literature review exploring compensatory behaviours and body change Academic Article uri icon


  • Background: Retirement from elite sport is a unique transition that influences significant identity, body, and lifestyle changes. This mixed-studies systematic literature review reports on athletic retirement, maladaptive eating behaviours, and body dissatisfaction. Methods: The preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses (PRISMA) guidelines were followed to search the following databases: Web of Science, Scopus, PubMed, EBSCO Host, Sport Discus, and CINAHL. Sixteen studies were synthesised and contrasted through thematic analysis to develop three overarching themes. Results: The three themes that arose include body dissatisfaction and grief, disordered eating and compensation, and long term influence of sporting culture. Maladaptive and compensatory behaviours can arise from sustained athletic identity, body grief, lack of education, and contradictory body ideals. Conclusion: The concept Athletic Body Transition is defined as exploring how a lack of body acceptance may lead to maladaptive behaviours related to food, exercise, and body arising in this transitory period. This review identifies the need for sporting organisations and health professionals to acknowledge this significant transition in regards to athletes’ relationship with food and body subsequent to a sporting career.


  • Buckley, Georgina L
  • Hall, LE
  • Lassemillante, ACM
  • Ackerman, KE
  • Belski, Regina

publication date

  • 2019