Treatments for obese patients with binge eating disorder (BED) typically report modest weight losses despite substantial reductions in binge eating. Although the limited weight losses represent a limitation of existing treatments, an improved understanding of weight trajectories before treatment may provide a valuable context for interpreting such findings. The current study examined the weight trajectories of obese patients in the year before enrollment in primary care treatment for BED. Participants were a consecutive series of 68 obese patients with BED recruited from primary care centers. Doctoral-level clinicians administered structured clinical interviews to assess participants' weight history and eating behaviors. Participants also completed a self-report measure assessing eating and weight. Overall, participants reported a mean weight gain of 9.5 lb in the past year, although this overall average comprised remarkable heterogeneity in patterns of weight changes, which ranged from losing 40 lb to gaining 62 lb. Most participants (65%) gained weight, averaging 22.5 lb. Weight gain was associated with more frequent binge eating episodes and overeating at various times. Most obese patients with BED who present to treatment in a primary care setting reported having gained substantial amounts of weight during the previous year. Such weight trajectory findings suggest that the modest amounts of weight losses typically reported by treatment studies for this specific patient group may be more positive than previously thought. Specifically, although the weight losses typically produced by treatments aimed at reducing binge eating seem modest, they could be reinterpreted as potentially positive outcomes given that the treatments might be interrupting the course of recent and large weight gains.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health ( R01 DK073542 and K24 DK070052 ).