Q & A: Binge Eating Following Dieting

Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
January/February 1999 Volume 10, Number 1
©1999 Gürze Books

Q: Does binge eating always follow a pattern of prior dieting? (V.K., Boise, ID)

A: Binge eating doesn’t always follow restricted eating, according to the results of a recent study (J Psychosomatic Res 44:367, 1998). In fact, for a substantial proportion of women who binge eat, especially those who meet the criteria for binge eating disorder (BED), binge eating behavior starts long before dieting. In an earlier study, only 8.7% of 31 binge eating obese patients reported having been on “strict” diets before they began to binge eat (Int J Eat Dis 13:25, 1993).

In the later study, the researchers uncovered two distinct patterns in the development of binge eating among a group of 106 overweight women between 18 and 55 years of age. The first pattern was an early form of binge eating, in which binge eating began by early adolescence without prior restrictive intake. The second form occurred in early adulthood after a number of years of dieting. The early-onset form, or binge eating before dieting, may be tied to a higher rate of BED or at least a higher rate by mid-life and possibly a higher rate of Axis II disorders, according to the researchers.The group that reported binge eating before dieting (BF group) also began dieting significantly earlier and more often than the diet-first group (DF group). There were no differences in the patterns of weight gain throughout the teenage years and, in adulthood, of high and low weights, between the two groups.

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