What Comes First: Weight Loss or Weight Gain

Eating disorders might be caused by weight disorders

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Most of us associate eating disorders with an unhealthy drop in weight.  But new research suggests that eating disorders may actually cause a new height in weight gain. 

More so, this new research suggests that a woman’s weight history is a strong factor determining the course of not only weight loss and gain but in treatment and remission.  

"Seek immediate attention if you suffer from an eating disorder"

Jena Shaw, lead author of a new study on eating disorders from Drexel University’s College of Arts and Sciences, paired with Michael Lowe Ph.D., professor of psychology at Drexel University, and studied two different groups of women who had eating disorders. 

One group included 78 women from the Renfrew Center in Philadelphia who were studied over the course of two years.  The other was a group of 110 women from a Harvard study who were interviewed over the course of eight years in six month intervals.  

What Shaw and Lowe discovered was counterintuitive.

"Most of the women we studied reached their highest weight ever after developing bulimia and before remission," says Shaw.

Of the group from Philadelphia, 59% of women reached their heaviest weight after developing the disorder, and 71.6% of women from the Harvard study also weighed the most they ever had after the onset of bulimia and before they reached remission.

This led the researchers to believe that “weight suppression” (the difference between a person’s highest weight ever and their current weight) had something to do with the spike in weight.  What they found was that women with higher weight suppression not only have to eat fewer calories to maintain their current weight than women without bulimia, but they also might sustain the disorder out of fear of regaining lost weight.

Unfortunately, high values in weight suppression also indicated poor outcomes to treatment including the increased likelihood of abstaining from bulimic behavior and longer times until remission.   

This study was sponsored by Drexel University and was published by the International Journal of Eating Disorders on January 24, 2012.  No conflicts in funding were presented.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
February 29, 2012
Last Updated:
March 1, 2012