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Body and weight issues burden Australian women

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Australian women are struggling with their weight and body image, with an RMIT University survey showing 92 per cent experience "fat days" and one in five regularly starve themselves to try and lose weight.

Preliminary findings from the What’s Really Eating You project, a nation-wide study by RMIT and La Trobe University, reveal Australian women have high levels of dissatisfaction with their body shape and weight.

Principal investigator Adrian Schembri said the initial results from the project’s online questionnaire indicated a disturbing number of women were at risk of developing eating disorders.

"We found that the women who are generally dissatisfied with their bodies actually check their bodies more often, creating a vicious cycle of repetitive checking rituals that fuel their feelings of anxiety and distress," Mr Schembri said.

"While almost all the women surveyed said they felt fat on at least a few days in the past month, 43 per cent reported feeling fat every single day.

"About 21 per cent regularly ate nothing for eight hours or more in order to influence their weight, which is particularly alarming given research has shown that extended periods of fasting typically increase the risk of binge eating."

The What’s Really Eating You project is examining whether a woman’s dissatisfaction with her body, shape and size contributes to risky behaviours and thought patterns associated with eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and binging.

The 407 women who have so far participated in the survey range in age from 18 to 61, with 82 per cent aged 18 to 35. Other preliminary results include:

  • 48 per cent of the women surveyed felt a strong desire to lose weight each day.
  • 67 per cent were at least moderately uncomfortable about seeing their body in the mirror and shop reflections or while undressing, bathing or taking a shower.
  • About one-third regularly used body checking techniques to help them to decide how much they could eat the following day. The most frequently checked body parts were the stomach, thighs and bottom.
  • Just 12 per cent had no desire to lose weight and only 9 per cent reported that they were not at all dissatisfied with their weight.

(Source: RMIT University: What’s Really Eating You project: May 2009)

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Posted On: 4 May, 2009
Modified On: 16 January, 2014

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