Establishing Thresholds for Unusually Large Binge Eating Episodes

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This study examined group differences in ratings of amounts of food at the threshold of what is considered “unusually large” to develop empirically derived definitions of binge eating criteria for bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder.


Groups included undergraduate students, community members, and participants from an eating disorder (ED) longitudinal study. Data were collected via self-report questionnaires.


Ordinal logistic regression indicated that males reported a higher threshold for amounts of food compared to females. Overweight participants from the student and ED samples, but not from the community sample, reported higher thresholds. The presence of binge eating and fear of weight gain were also associated with higher thresholds.


These findings provide evidence that gender, social context, BMI, and eating disorder status are important considerations in determining what is an unusually large amount of food. Future diagnostic guidelines should consider the importance of these factors when defining binge eating. © 2011 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. (Int J Eat Disord 2012)

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