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Increase in obesity and eating disorders

Posted Nov 08 2008 1:58pm
You can hardly read a newspaper without hearing about the "obesity epidemic." And disordered eating also appears to be on the rise.

But a new study from Australia has shown that the combination of the two (obesity and eating disorder behaviors) is increasing faster then either obesity or disordered eating alone.

The study measured self-reported height and weight, as well as behaviors like restrictive eating/dieting, purging, and binge eating in two surveys- one from 2005 and one from 1995. The authors found that both obesity and disordered eating had increased independently of one another. But the largest increase was that combination of obesity and ED behaviors- a person in 2005 was 4.5 times more likely to have a BMI greater than 30 AND ED behaviors than one in 1995. Breaking the statistics down even further, one in five obese people had eating disordered behaviors. Binge eating was the most common behavior, but rates of purging and restricting weren't insignificant, either

Conclude the authors:

The reason for such a large increase in the number of obese people with ED behaviors in a relatively short time span of 10 years is unknown. In recent years, the obesity ‘‘epidemic’’ has received much attention in the media and from politicians, public health promotion, clinical health professionals, and others treating obesity. Perhaps these confronting, and at times alarmist, messages, have been conducive to increased levels of body dissatisfaction among obese individuals, and to a perception that weight loss at any cost is the best outcome. This might also account for the observed increase in the prevalence of binge eating and extreme weight control behaviors, as body image dissatisfaction is a risk factor for disordered eating.

It appears that the original "health" message in obesity prevention got lost in translation. Most people would say that forcing your weight below a BMI of 30 by throwing everything up is unhealthy (as much as they would congratulate you in the same breath). However, I don't think these "health advocates" realize how common, and how detrimental, these behaviors really are.
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