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Salud mental

versão impressa ISSN 0185-3325


LORA-CORTEZ, Carmiña Isabel  e  SAUCEDO-MOLINA, Teresita de Jesús. Conductas alimentarias de riesgo e imagen corporal de acuerdo al índice de masa corporal en una muestra de mujeres adultas de la ciudad de México. Salud Ment [online]. 2006, vol.29, n.3, pp.60-67. ISSN 0185-3325.

Studies conducted in adolescent and young women have showed that body image perception and dissatisfaction are highly related with risk eating behaviors, particularly with compensatory behaviors. It has also been found that these women tend to overestimate their body size, showing more dissatisfaction.

Many studies on eating disorders have been developed in adolescents, but, what happens with adult women?

Adult women show periods of pregnancy, nursing, menstrual disorders and, a decrease in physical activity and, at the psychological level there is a lack of emotional stability and depression.

These episodes in general, have influence in feeding and body image, that could lead to risky eating behaviors (restricted dieting, fasting, skipping meals among others) affecting directly the state of health, because latter they can develop into eating disorders.

Undoubtedly, inadequate feeding can cause malnutrition and nutrimental deficiencies, provoking physiological alterations such as osteoporosis, anemia or hypokaliemia, and also, somatic complications during pregnancy, including abortions and low weight in the new born.


To determine the relationship between body mass index (BMI), risky eating behaviours, body perception and body dissatisfaction in Mexican adult women from 25 to 45 years of age in Mexico City.


A non probabilistic sample of 659 women from 25 to 45 years of age (X=38.27; SD=4.4) was used.

To collect the sample, an area of the Questionnaire for Health and Feeding called scale of risk factors associated to eating disorders (EFRATA) and body image was used. This is a self-report questionnaire, validated for this population. Its main purpose is to measure risk eating behaviors and body image. Questions refer to risky eating behaviors (binge eating, compensatory behaviors, restricted dieting, preoccupation about weight and figure), with 4 answering options: 1) Never, 2) Sometimes, 3) Frequently, and 4) Always.

Body Image was measured through two dimensions: (a) Body perception was measured through five specific items and (b) Body dissatisfaction was measured with a nine body figure scale, from thin to obese.

The BMI was obtained from weight and height self-report (BMI=kg/m2). Self report measures of weight and height have been found reliable; as there is a high correlation with data taken directly, the difference between them is 1.14 kg/m2, which does not interfere significantly.

The cut points recommended by the Expert Committee (OMS), are: low weight from 15 to 18.5; normal weight from 18.51 to 24.99; overweight from 25 to 29.99; obesity from 30 to 39.99 and morbid obesity higher than 40.


Body Mass Index distribution of the sample was: 1.1% low weight, 53.6% normal weight, 32.3% overweight, 12.4% obesity, and 0.6% of women were morbidly obese.

Body perception distribution was: 0.9% very thin, 15.3% thin, 44.4% normal, 32.6% overweight and 6.8% obese.

Results related to body dissatisfaction, showed that more than % of the sample was dissatisfied; 70.1% of the women were dissatisfied with their body image and wanted to be thinner and, 8.7% wanted to gain weight.

It was found that a large percentage of women (79%) are dissatisfied with their body image. From this percentage 70.1 wanted to be thinner and, 8.7% wanted to gain weight.

As to the relationship between BMI distribution and body dissatisfaction it was found that 14% of underweight and 54.2% normal weight women want to be even thinner.

The findings of the study showed that women with higher BMI, displayed more risky eating behaviors. Women with overweight and obesity displayed the higher percentages in binge eating.

A Pearson correlation was carried out to look for significant differences between BMI, risky eating behaviors and the two dimensions of body image (perception and dissatisfaction). Results indicated that BMI was significantly correlated with binge eating, body dissatisfaction and body image perception.


This study supported important information about the relation between BMI and risky eating behaviors in Mexican adult women. The most important result was to confirm the presence of disordered eating typical of eating disorders among adult women. Even though the data obtained do not demonstrate the diagnosis of an ED, it shows the presence of some of the characteristic symptoms, which means that these are commonles found among the general population. Although isolated symptoms are not a necessary indicator of the development of the disease, in a way they point out the individuals who are at risk of threatening their physical and mental health. On the other hand, one of the risks that adds to this particular population is the fact that all of them are mothers, as some research findings have confirmed the relationship between the mother's eating behaviors and the appearance of eating disorders in their children.

The results obtained in this research show that the BMI of the sample tends to be in the overweight (32.3%) and obese ranges (13%). These results agree with those of the National Nutrition Survey of 1999, were 52.5% of the women were classified as overweight or obese (30.8% as overweight and 21.7% as obese). These scores are important not just because they favor chronic-degenerative diseases, but also because of the great association between overweight and obesity with risky eating behaviors, something that could be confirmed in this study, as individuals with higher BMI, displayed more risky eating behaviors. The results of this study have consistently supported the positive relationship between BMI, binge eating, body dissatisfaction and body image perception, although group differences attributed to age were not statistically significant.

Finally, another important contribution of this study, is the use of a reliable and valid multidimentional questionnaire developed in Mexico, specifically designed for the study of two very complex issues such as risky eating behaviors and body image.

The main limitations of the study were that the findings were primarily based on self-report data and the use of a non-probabilistic sample of Mexican adult women.

Palavras-chave : Risky eating behaviors; body image; Body Mass Index; adult women; México.

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