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Obesity (Silver Spring). 2011 Jul;19(7):1515-8. doi: 10.1038/oby.2011.24. Epub 2011 Feb 17.

Eating disorder symptomatology in normal-weight vs. obese individuals with binge eating disorder.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA.


Although normal-weight individuals comprise a substantial minority of the binge eating disorder (BED) population, little is known about their clinical presentation. This study sought to investigate the nature and severity of eating disturbances in normal-weight adults with BED. We compared 281 normal-weight (n = 86) and obese (n = 195) treatment-seeking adults with BED (mean age = 31.0; s.d. = 10.8) on a range of current and past eating disorder symptoms using ANOVA and χ(2) analyses. After controlling for age and sex, normal-weight participants reported more frequent use of a range of healthy and unhealthy weight control behaviors compared to their obese peers, including eating fewer meals and snacks per day; exercising and skipping meals more frequently in the past month; and avoiding certain foods for weight control. They also endorsed more frequent attempts at dieting in the past year, and feeling more frequently distressed about their binge eating, at a trend level. There were no group differences in binge eating frequency in the past month, age at onset of binge eating, overvaluation of shape/weight, or likelihood of having used certain weight control behaviors (e.g., vomiting, laxative use) or having sought treatment for an eating disorder in the past. Based on our findings, normal-weight individuals appear to be a behaviorally distinct subset of the BED population with significantly greater usage of both healthy and unhealthy weight control behaviors compared to their obese peers. These results refute the notion that distress and impairment in BED are simply a result of comorbid obesity.

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