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Disordered eating could be affecting ten to fifteen percent of women

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Results of a new study show that ten to fifteen percent of women participating in a phone study were found to affected by disordered eating. The findings come from University of Montreal researchers who conducted phone surveys, finding the impact that mixed messages regarding weight loss versus eating for pleasure influences disordered eating for women.

The study included 1501 women who took place in a phone survey about eating disorders and disordered eating. None of the women were classified as anorexic. The average age of the women was 31, and most were university graduates. The researchers found binge eating, forced vomiting, laxative and diuretic use among the women surveyed.

Lise Gauvin, a professor at the Université de Montréal Department of Social and Preventive Medicine says, "Women are exposed to many contradictory messages. They are encouraged to lose weight yet also encouraged to eat for the simple pleasure of it." Eating disorders among the women studied were also linked to self-perceived health.

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The findings revealed that 13.7 percent of women reported binge eating one to five days or one to seven times per month. Binge eating leads to feelings of loss of control, as does bulimia. 2.5 percent of the women responding to the survey reported using laxatives, diuretics, or forcing themselves to vomit, leading to the conclusions that disordered eating among women is a cause of concern.

Women who perceived themselves to be in poor health were more susceptible to disordered eating behaviors, another finding of the study.

Women engage in exercise to weight control and body image. “We practice a sport for the pleasure it provides, to feel good, but when the activity is done to gain control over one's weight and figure, it is indicative of someone who could be excessively concerned about their weight," says Dr. Gauvin. "Our data suggests that a proportion of the female population displays maladaptive eating patterns."

The findings that ten to fifteen percent of the women surveyed displayed some sort of eating disorder underscores mixed messages to women about weight loss and eating for pleasure. Dr. Gauvin says the study sheds new light on bulimia and binge eating among women, and that a proportion of women suffer from disordered eating. Based on the study results, ten to fifteen percent of women may be affected by some form of eating disorder that does not include anorexia.

International Journal of Eating Disorders.