In the United States, as many as 10 million females and 1 million males are fighting a life and death battle with an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia. Approximately 25 million more are struggling with binge eating disorder (Crowther et al., 1992; Fairburn et al., 1993; Gordon, 1990; Hoek, 1995; Shisslak et al., 1995).
The Prevalence of Eating Disorders
Because of the secretiveness and shame associated with eating disorders, many cases are probably not reported. In addition, many individuals struggle with body dissatisfaction and sub-clinical disordered eating attitudes and behaviors. For example, it has been shown that 80% of American women are dissatisfied with their appearance (Smolak, 1996).
The Drive for Thinness
42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner (Collins, 1991).
81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat (Mellin et al., 1991).
The average American woman is 5’4" tall and weighs 140 pounds. The average American model is 5’11" tall and weighs 117 pounds.
Most fashion models are thinner than 98% of American women (Smolak, 1996).
51% of 9 and 10 year-old girls feel better about themselves if they are on a diet (Mellin et al., 1991).
46% of 9-11 year-olds are "sometimes" or "very often" on diets, and 82% of their families are "sometimes" or "very often" on diets (Gustafson-Larson & Terry, 1992).
91% of women recently surveyed on a college campus had attempted to control their weight through dieting, 22% dieted "often" or "always" (Kurth et al., 1995).
95% of all dieters will regain their lost weight in 1-5 years (Grodstein, 1996).
35% of "normal dieters" progress to pathological dieting. Of those, 20-25% progress to partial or full-syndrome eating disorders (Shisslak & Crago, 1995).
25% of American men and 45% of American women are on a diet on any given day (Smolak, 1996).
Americans spend over $40 billion on dieting and diet-related products each year (Smolak, 1996).
Collins, M.E. (1991). Body figure perceptions and preferences among pre-adolescent children. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 199-208.
Crowther, J.H., Wolf, E.M., & Sherwood, N. (1992). Epidemiology of bulimia nervosa. In M. Crowther, D.L. Tennenbaum. S.E. Hobfoll, & M.A.P. Stephens (Eds.), The etiology of bulimia nervosa: The individual and familial context (pp. 1-26) Washington, D.C.: Taylor & Francis.
Fairburn, C.G., Hay, P.J., & Welch, S.L. (1993). Binge eating and bulimia nervosa: Distribution and determinants. In C