Disordered eating among women in the U.S. may be more widespread than we thought. Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of young American women report experiencing disordered eating behaviors, and ten percent report symptoms of eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia, or binge eating disorder, according to new study findings published in HealthDay News.
These findings resulted from information provided by more than 4,000 women in an online poll conducted by SELF Magazine in conjunction with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). The women ranged in ages from 25 to 45.
“Our survey found that these behaviors cut across racial and ethnic lines, and are not limited to any one group. Women who identified their ethnic backgrounds as Hispanic or Latina, white, black or African American, and Asian were all represented among the women who reported unhealthy eating behaviors,” said Cynthia R. Bulik, a professor of eating disorders and director of the UNC Eating Disorders Program.
“What we found most surprising was the unexpectedly high number of women who engage in unhealthy purging activities. More than 31 percent of women in the survey reported that in an attempt to lose weight, they have induced vomiting or had taken laxatives, diuretics or diet pills at some point in their lives. Among these women, more that 50 percent engaged in purging activities at least a few times a week, and many did so every day,” Bulik said.
Eating habits such as skipping meals, avoiding carbohydrates and, in come cases, extreme dieting, were thought by some women to be normal. But the study finds that these habits may actually be signs of disordered eating, which is often linked with emotional and physical distress.
Although there seems to be a widespread belief that eating disorders affect mostly young women, the study found that a surprising number of women in their 30s and 40s had about the same rates of disordered eating as younger women.
Among the additional findings:
* 67 percent of the 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 the women said concerns about what they eat or weigh interfere with their happiness.
* 37 percent of women said they regularly skip meals to try to lose weight.
* 27 percent said they’d be extremely upset if they gained just five pounds.
* 26 percent have eliminated entire food groups from their diets.
* 16 percent have dieted on 1,000 calories a day.
* 13 percent smoke to lose weight.
* 12 percent often eat when they’re not hungry, and 49 percent sometimes do.
About the author
Barbara is a school psychologist, a published author in the area of personal finance, a breast cancer survivor using “alternative” treatments, a born existentialist, and a student of nature and all things natural.