Weight loss and bulimic eating behavior: changing patterns within a population of young adult women

South Med J. 1991 Apr;84(4):457-60. doi: 10.1097/00007611-199104000-00011.


A survey of 364 college freshman women was conducted to examine weight loss practices. Nearly 60% of women were currently on a diet to lose or to maintain weight. Since entering college 7 months earlier, 29% had used crash dieting or fasting as a means of weight control. Even though most had experimented with purging and diet pills in high school, most of these had discontinued these practices. Twenty percent had at some time used diet pills, but only 4% were currently users; 13% had at some time used purgatives (vomiting, laxatives, or diuretics), but only 5% were current users. Use of purgatives may indicate a more general pattern of addictive health behavior. Compared to women who had never used purgatives, current purgative users were 4.1 times more likely to smoke (44% vs 11%) and 2.7 times as likely to use drugs (33% vs 12%). Of the 51 women who had ever smoked, 37% listed weight control as a reason for it. Longitudinal investigations are needed to determine how weight loss practices track from adolescence into adulthood and to determine factors predisposing to the establishment of unhealthy weight loss practices, such as severely restrictive dieting, "yo-yo dieting" (weight cycling), and use of diet pills, purgatives, or tobacco.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Alcohol Drinking
  • Body Image
  • Bulimia / diet therapy
  • Bulimia / drug therapy
  • Bulimia / psychology*
  • Cathartics / therapeutic use
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Exercise
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Smoking
  • Substance-Related Disorders / complications
  • Weight Loss*


  • Cathartics