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Why Obese Young Adults Need Treatment for Eating Disorders

Why Obese Young Adults Need Treatment for Eating Disorders

Learn why eating disorders are actually more common among overweight and obese young adults—and why EDs need to be treated sooner rather than later.

Ranker’s top 10 movies about eating disorders all focus on girls driven to become too thin. No wonder most people equate the phrase “eating disorder” with anorexia. However, a study that looked at 14,322 young adults, between ages18 and 24, concluded that those who are overweight or obese are more likely to have eating disorders (EDs) and disordered eating behaviors (DEBs) than their normal or underweight peers (29.3 percent versus 15.8 percent for women; 15.4 percent versus 7.5 percent for men). These same young adults are also far more likely to go undiagnosed and untreated for their eating disorders.

Other studies have found that among overweight/obese folks, the two most common forms of EDs are binge eating disorder (BED) and night eating syndrome (NES). In NES, 25 percent of daily calories or more are consumed after the evening meal and/or at least three times a week the person gets up from sleeping to eat. BED—eating more than normal over a period of time and the inability to control eating—shows up in as many as 25 percent of type 2 diabetes patients and can be joined by DEBs such as vomiting or use of laxatives and diuretics.

If you or a loved one is overweight or obese and are struggling to achieve a healthy weight, it is important to talk with an eating disorder specialist to see if you need to address those challenges BEFORE (and then while) you focus on losing weight. For help, Google, “Sharecare binge eating all videos.”

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

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