How Weight Suppression Can Affect Treatment for Bulimia

“Weight suppression (WS) refers to the difference between highest past weight (since reaching adult height) and current weight,” said Michael R. Lowe of the Department of Psychology at Drexel University. “Because the average body mass index (BMI) of individuals with bulimia nervosa (BN) is in the normal weight range, this suggests that many individuals with BN were once overweight.” Lowe, who also works at the Renfrew Center for Eating Disorders in Philadelphia, knows that WS is linked to binge eating and believes that identifying WS could be a key to helping those suffering with BN achieve better treatment outcomes. Along with his colleagues, Lowe evaluated 246 women over nine years, interviewing them every six months. The women were given psychological evaluations, and weighed and measured at the onset of the study. At the conclusion, the team found that the women with higher WS took longer to achieve remission from their symptoms.

Lowe believes these findings contribute to a growing body of evidence supporting the link between WS and remission, and could also have critical clinical implications for improving treatment outcomes. “A central component of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which is currently the most effective treatment for BN, is the introduction of a regular pattern of eating in which patients begin to eat three planned meals and two planned snacks each day. Patients who begin treatment with high levels of WS might find it more difficult to accomplish this goal without losing control of their eating or gaining weight,” said Lowe.  He added, “The results of the current study imply that gathering weight history information from patients at the beginning of treatment may inform the therapist about the course of the disorder. Because highly weight-suppressed individuals may have more difficulty normalizing their eating patterns, knowledge of WS levels may allow for anticipation of this obstacle.”

Lowe, M. R., Berner, L. A., Swanson, S. A., Clark, V. L., Eddy, K. T., Franko, D. L., Shaw, J. A., Ross, S., & Herzog, D. B. (2011, October 17). Weight Suppression Predicts Time to Remission From Bulimia Nervosa. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0025714

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Frances


    October 20th, 2011 at 4:44 PM

    I will freely admit that I have had a difficult journey with my own weight over the years and have often thought that maybe developing some bulimic tendencies could be the answer to my problems. Be able to eat the food that I wanted but then get rid of it before it had a chance to affect my weight. But I have never had the real nerve to get into that behavior seriously and believe it or not have even beat myself up about that from time to time. I know it’s stupid but I think that when you have experienced these battles all your life you have thought of many different schemes to get thin and stay that way.

  • Gemma


    October 22nd, 2011 at 5:27 AM

    @ Frances: I do hope that you are getting the help that you need to overcome this obsession with eating and maintaining thinness. It sounds like you could really benefit from getting in with a good therapist, someone who can help you bury those demons that chase you once and for all. Maybe reading and posting here will be your first step toward promising recovery. Betst of luck to you on that journey toward wellness and wholeness. :)

  • ken


    October 23rd, 2011 at 5:31 AM

    I was not aware of how weight suppression could play any role in a person’s health or his recovery.once you lose weight that is behind you i thought.but that certainly is not the is not as simple as it seems,is it?

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