Do Women With Eating Disorders Focus on Negative Body Traits?

According to a new study, women with binge eating issues tend to focus their attention on their least favorite body parts, which may help understand why they express such unhappiness with their physical body. Additionally, the study also revealed that binge eaters spend more time looking at the body parts that they consider ugly than their more positive physical attributes. People who binge are more likely to report extreme dissatisfaction with their bodies than those who are overweight, but do not binge. Because of this, the researchers believe people who binge also put more emphasis and visual attention on the parts of their body that they don’t like, compared to people who do not binge.

German researchers studied the visual patterns of 18 overweight women who did not binge, and 26 women who had a history of binge eating. The test subjects were given pictures of strangers and of themselves and researchers measured their pupils as they watched the images. The pictures were taken from various angles, showing the subject and a control picture from the front, back, left and right. The participants were asked to pick out the most attractive and least attractive body part on each of the pictures while their visual response was gauged using a 240-Hz Eye-Link Eyetracker. Eye movements were measured for both frequency and duration on the most and least attractive body parts of each picture.

The researchers discovered that all of the participants, those who binged and those who did not, paid more attention to the least attractive body parts. However, they found that the binge eaters focused more intently and more frequently on the ugly body parts than the people who did not binge. Additionally, the binge eaters gazed at the ugly body parts of images of themselves more than the unattractive body parts of the control images. The researchers believe more studies are necessary to determine if bias toward ugly body parts increases binge eating behaviors, or is just a symptom of eating problems.

© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, 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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  • calvin


    July 12th, 2011 at 2:48 PM

    tahr sounds like a tough trap to escape from for the overweight people…they need to take control,it’s not enough just looking at what is wrong!

  • Stacie


    July 12th, 2011 at 4:22 PM

    Well duh of course we do. Why do you think some people develop these disorders to begin with? They over analyze and are hyper critical of themselves and one way that they find to control this is to micrmanage what they eat. Yes there are other reasons why these issues develop but in some of these cases you know they pinpoint something that they think that they can change, ie a body part, and thus emerges their diordered eating pattterns.

  • lana


    July 13th, 2011 at 4:35 AM

    so Americans must have much higher rates of eating disorders since we are inundated with media images of the perfect woman all of the time and spend gobs of money trying to emulate that.

  • Salamander168


    July 13th, 2011 at 6:49 AM

    If you see yourself as lacking by observing just the parts of you that are not great then you are committing a crime in my opinion.There is more to being a nice person than your looks.

    And if you think you have problems because your legs are not perfectly toned or are fat,then please stop for just a moment and think about the tens of thousands of people who have no legs.Be thankful for what you have and try to see the best partsof yourself.If you yourself see the worst parts of you,then how would others treat you?No prizes for guessing,yeah?!

  • Dr. Robin B. Dilley

    Dr. Robin B. Dilley

    July 14th, 2011 at 7:20 AM

    Binge eating is a disorder that must be addressed at its root. You are beautiful and you need to recognize it.

  • Stuart Kaplowitz, MFT

    Stuart Kaplowitz, MFT

    July 14th, 2011 at 7:31 AM

    Having someone who understands and show support will help you overcome your issues with eating or get help through counseling. You need someone to guide you and walk with you through it all.

  • L.Adams


    July 14th, 2011 at 1:06 PM

    Most of these thoughts that can ruin a person’s self-confidence comes from comparing oneself with others.And I just wanna say that if you’re comparing against others then you’re simply not doing justice to yourself.Everybody is different and that’s a fact.Learnt to accept it and appreciate yourself for what you are.

  • KristenFox


    July 15th, 2011 at 7:50 PM

    I think that the question should be why do women with body image problems develop eating disorders, which is what I want to know. I don’t like how my body looks at all. I put on almost sixty pounds over the last five years but I’m not starving myself to death to combat that. I’m going walking or jogging every morning and fixing it that way, slowly but surely.

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