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Int J Eat Disord. 2017 May;50(5):561-568. doi: 10.1002/eat.22639. Epub 2016 Oct 18.

Predicting persistence of eating disorder compensatory weight control behaviors.

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Oregon Research Institute, 1776 Millrace Drive, Eugene, Oregon, 97403.



The study aimed to identify variables that predicted persistence versus desistence of eating disorder-related compensatory behaviors in a high-risk factor sample of women who reported repeated compensatory behaviors at baseline. Data came from a randomized trial evaluating two brief obesity prevention interventions for college students with weight concerns.


Two hundred and sixty one young women (Mean age = 19.1, 79% European American) with weight concerns were randomly assigned to one of two brief obesity prevention interventions or educational video control. Participants were assessed at baseline, post-intervention, 6- and 12-month follow-up by interview, survey, and physical measurements on 6 eating disorder features and 13 psychosocial variables hypothesized to predict onset or maintenance of eating pathology.


Approximately half (48%) reported engaging in recurrent compensatory behaviors in the year preceding study involvement. Among this subset, 61% reported persistent compensatory behaviors over 12-month follow-up. Neither study condition and adjunctive treatment, nor eating disorder features predicted persistence. Persistent compensatory behavior was significantly associated with greater sociocultural pressure to be thin, impulsivity, and substance use, and lower perceived sexual attractiveness.


Perceived pressure to be thin is an established risk factor for the initiation of disorder eating behaviors but also may serve as a maintenance factor for unhealthy compensatory behaviors. Impulsivity, either as a trait factor or resulting from substance misuse may contribute to poor judgment and ongoing compensatory behaviors. Additional research on factors that predict persistence of eating disordered behaviors is needed. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.(Int J Eat Disord 2017; 50:561-568).


compensatory behaviors; eating disorders; maintenance; persistence; predictors; purging disorder

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