Is your body shaped more like an apple or a pear? A new study from Drexel University suggests that women who put pounds on around the middle — ‘apples’ — are more dissatisfied with their bodies, and more likely to feel that they had binged.
“The more they had their body fat distributed centrally, the more prone they were to develop feelings of loss of control for the first time,” said Drexel psychologist Michael Lowe, who was the senior author of the work.
Those feelings can sometimes set the stage for an eating disorder.
The findings grew out of an evaluation of a weight gain-prevention program Drexel was testing a few years ago. Researchers enrolled about 300 first-year undergraduate women and followed them for two years, monitoring their feelings about their bodies and eating habits, in addition to measuring the students’ height, weight, and — using a special machine to scan the entire body for fat stores — fat distribution.
The program didn’t work to keep the pounds off the women, but graduate student Laura Berner realized the mass of data pointed to body shape as a neglected factor in uncontrolled eating.
“A 1 percent increase in the abdominal body fat was associated with a 50 percent increase in likelihood of developing loss-of-control eating,” said Lowe. “That’s a big effect.”
The study didn’t go so far as to find that body shape was related to the development of a full-blown eating disorder. But, Lowe said, measuring body fat distribution might be a way of predicting who would benefit most from a prevention program.
The findings were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.