Compulsive exercise as a mediator between clinical perfectionism and eating pathology.
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The aim of this study was to examine whether compulsive exercise mediates the relationship between clinical perfectionism and eating pathology, based on the cognitive behavioral model of compulsive exercise. Participants were 368 adults who participated regularly in sport/exercise and completed online measures of perfectionism, compulsive exercise and eating disorders. In support of the well-established link between perfectionism and eating disorders, clinical perfectionism predicted eating pathology both directly and indirectly mediated by compulsive exercise. In addition, there were also direct effects of clinical perfectionism on the avoidance/rule-driven behavior, weight control, and mood improvement subscales of the Compulsive Exercise Test (CET). There was a direct effect of the CET weight control subscale on eating pathology and a negative direct effect of the CET subscale mood improvement on eating pathology. Findings lend support to the cognitive behavioral model of compulsive exercise in which clinical perfectionism is conceptualized as related to eating disorders directly and indirectly through the mediation of compulsive exercise. Compulsive exercise was also found to have a direct effect on eating disorders. Compulsive exercise may be a symptom of eating pathology, rather than an antecedent, however causal inferences could not be established given the correlational design. Longitudinal research using cross-lagged panel designs to examine a bidirectional relationship between compulsive exercise and eating disorders is needed.
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