• dieting;
  • binge eating;
  • eating disorder



Clinical experience has indicated that dieting usually precedes the onset of binge eating in the development of bulimia nervosa (BN). However, data confirming this in nonclinical, representative samples are lacking.


Using results obtained from the National Women's Study (NWS), we were able to determine the chronological relationship between age of onset of significant dieting (attempting to lose 15 lbs) and onset of bingeing in 85 respondents who met DSM-III-R criteria for BN. These respondents were a subset of over 3,000 female adult U.S. women who completed a random telephone interview (averaging 40 min and including screenings for rape, sexual molestation, aggravated assault, posttraumatic stress disorder [PTSD], and BN).


We found that the age of first serious attempt to diet preceded the age of first binge in 46% of cases. There were no significant differences in histories of victimization experiences among the groups. First binge preceded first serious diet in 37% of cases, and these behaviors occurred during the same age in 17% of cases.


These data confirm that dieting is more likely to precede binge eating, although binge eating precedes significant dieting in a substantial proportion of bulimic respondents. © 2000 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 28: 259–264, 2000.