Study: Most women "disordered eaters"

Self magazine finds that 75 percent of women have an unhealthy relationship with food.

By Tracy Clark-Flory
Published April 25, 2008 1:43PM (UTC)
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Self magazine -- publisher of headlines like "The 10-Calorie Secret," "Drop Weight, Look Great and Never Go to the Gym" and "Shortcut to your Best Body," as the F-word pointed out -- just published an alarming survey of disordered eating among women. Holy hypocrisy! In all fairness, though, Self is one of the least culpable among women's glossies and certainly deserves credit for undertaking the study with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Now, brace yourselves for the results of this survey of 4,023: Sixty-five percent of women ages 25 to 45 engage in disordered eating, "such as skipping meals or cutting out food groups." (If skipping a meal doesn't register as particularly unhealthy, note that these are cases in which the women say it's "associated with emotional and physical distress.") In addition, 10 percent of women report behaviors consistent with anorexia, bulimia and binging. Other findings, as summarized by the press release:


--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

Cynthia R. Bulik of the UNC School of Medicine added a rotten cherry to this sickening sundae: "More than 31 percent of women in the survey reported that in an attempt to lose weight they had induced vomiting or had taken laxatives, diuretics or diet pills at some point in their life. Among these women, more than 50 percent engaged in purging activities at least a few times a week."

I believe this calls for a moment of feigned naiveté: Will the study's findings -- particularly that most female dieters are already at a healthy weight -- impact future health and beauty coverage by Self and the rest of the glossy gang?

Tracy Clark-Flory

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