May 15, 2008

Disordered eating behaviors

Women strive to be skinny and thin like the celebrities in magazines and television. Tabloid magazines point out celebrities flaws criticizing them for gaining weight or losing weight. The messages we get from media can be damaging to women and girls who want to be beautiful are constantly worry about their weight.

In Self Magazine’s May 2008 issue they reported a study on disordered eating by the University of North Carolina. The researchers surveyed over 4,000 women on their eating habits and found that 65% of American women in their study between the ages of 25 and 45 report having disordered eating behaviors. Disordered eating behaviors are different from what we would typically think of as eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder. Disordered eating behaviors are unhealthy thoughts, feelings, or behaviors related to food or body, for example, skipping meals and extreme dieting. They categorized the behaviors into six categories and people may fall into one or more category.

Calorie prisoners: They are terrified of gaining weight and tend to see food as good or bad and feel extremely guilty if they indulge in something that's off-limits.
Secret eaters: They binge on junk food at home, in the car—wherever they won't be found out.
Career dieters: They have been dieting all their lives and may not know what to eat without a plan to follow; despite their efforts, they're more likely than other types to be overweight or obese.
Purgers: They are obsessed with ridding their body of unwanted calories and bloat by using laxatives, diuretics or occasional vomiting.
Food addicts: They eat to soothe stress, deal with anger, even celebrate a happy event; they think about food nearly all the time.
Extreme exercisers: They work out despite illness, injury or exhaustion and solely for weight loss; they are devastated if they miss a session.
More results from the study (from ScienceDaily):
  • 75 percent of women report disordered eating behaviors or symptoms consistent with eating disorders; so three out of four have an unhealthy relationship with food or their bodies
  • 67 percent of women (excluding those with actual eating disorders) are trying to lose weight
  • 53 percent of dieters are already at a healthy weight and are still trying to lose weight
  • 39 percent of women say concerns about what they eat or weigh interfere with their happiness
  • 37 percent regularly skip meals to try to lose weight
  • 27 percent would be “extremely upset” if they gained just five pounds
  • 26 percent cut out entire food groups
  • 16 percent have dieted on 1,000 calories a day or fewer
  • 13 percent smoke to lose weight
  • 12 percent often eat when they’re not hungry; 49 percent sometimes do

This is quite an interesting study to me especially because I’ve always wondered about my own eating behaviors and how healthy they are or aren’t. I don’t have extreme behaviors that would warrant me to have anorexia, bulimia nervosa, or a binge eating disorder. But I do know that my habits have not always been healthy. I am not constantly obsessed with my weight, which seems to be the main motivation for people in this study who have disordered eating behaviors. So in that respect I think that I am decently healthy.

Reference: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2008, April 23). Three Out Of Four American Women Have Disordered Eating, Survey Suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 9, 2008, from

Photo Source: Microsoft iStock

1 comment:

  1. Wow, those are some high numbers of dysfunctional behavior. So sad how our society and the media dictate our self-worth.