Changes in weight and body image over time in women with eating disorders




This study examined the changes in body image and weight in young women with an adolescent eating disorder, relative to women without an eating disorder (noED).


Three diagnostic groups, anorexia nervosa (AN; n = 10), bulimia nervosa (BN; n = 27), and binge eating disorder (BED; n = 42) and three comparison groups (noED; n = 659 each) were compared on body mass index (BMI) and self-reported current body size, ideal body size, and weight dissatisfaction. Dependent variables were examined 2 and 1 year before the onset, the onset year, and 1 and 2 years after the onset of the eating disorder in a model that was adjusted for ethnicity and BMI.


BMI was lower in the AN group at all time points except 2 years before onset. AN girls evidenced a significantly stronger relation between BMI and current self-ratings and weight dissatisfaction than noED girls. BMI did not differ between the BN group and the noED group. Girls with BN reported larger current body sizes and greater weight dissatisfaction across all time points. The BED group had higher BMI than the noED group across time. BED girls reported greater current body size ratings and weight dissatisfaction than the noED girls. Girls with AN, BN, or BED did not differ from the noED girls on body ideal ratings.


Body weight seems to influence perception of body size more so for girls with AN than for noED girls. No support was found for an accelerated weight gain over time for BN. Weight may increase over time for the BED group relative to the noED group, but larger studies are needed. Across all three groups, ideal body size appears to be unrelated to diagnostic status. Rather, the risk for developing an eating disorder appears to arise from size overestimation and related weight dissatisfaction. © 2004 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 36: 315–327, 2004.