Eating disorders are an extreme way to monitor and manipulate weight. Sufferers may use dieting pills, laxatives, or they may control their body’s absorption of food by purging. Excessive dieting may also be used, with minimal calories consumed in a single day.
Though the general impression is that these disorders are unusual, a new study published in 2008 highlights the prevalence of eating disorders in the United States. Cynthia R. Bulik of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, was the lead author on the study that sought to understand the trends in eating habits among U.S. women.
The study, performed by SELF Magazine, along with the University of North Carolina, revealed that there is an obsessive unhealthy attitude among women in the United States regarding their bodies and their eating practices. This attitude affects an astounding number of women.
Bulik and co-author Lauren Reba-Harrelson interviewed 4,023 women using a detailed online questionnaire. The women were questioned at length about their eating habits.
The study highlighted the widespread nature of disordered eating, reporting that 65 percent of women aged 25 to 45 participate in disordered eating behaviors. An additional 10 percent of the women reported symptoms that identify disorders such as bulimia nervosa, anorexia, and binge eating disorder.
This information reveals that a total of 75 percent of women in the United States have struggled with an eating disorder or have experienced symptoms of an eating disorder.
The survey shows that disordered eating behaviors are widespread in the United States. 3 out of 4 women have negative thoughts, feelings, or behaviors related to eating food.
The study also showed that the results are consistent across racial and ethnic differences. The study found that the behaviors cut across racial and ethnic lines and were not limited to racial or ethnic status.
The study reports that over 31 percent of women have engaged in induced vomiting, or taken laxatives, diuretics or diet pills at some point of their lives in an effort to manipulate their weight. Out of these women, more than half engaged in these behaviors at least a few times a week, while some suffered to the point of using them every day.
The behaviors ranged from less dangerous behaviors such as skipping a meal or eliminating certain foods to very extreme problems such as anorexia and bulimia. The study reported that 67 percent of women who do not suffer from eating disorders are trying to lose weight.
In addition, 53 percent of dieters are at a healthy weight, but they are still trying to lose weight.
The findings of this study highlight the pervasiveness of eating disordered behavior in the United States. The results provide important information to those who design education and prevention programs to target young women who may be at risk for eating disorders. This study suggests that every woman may be at risk for eating disorders.