Don’t freak out, but you might eat all of the food. (Getty Images)
Your body type may determine how likely you are to binge eat, according to new research from Drexel University.
The study, which researchers say is the first to investigate the connection between body fat distribution, body image, and disordered eating, was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, and tracked nearly 300 women and their eating habits for two years. The women’s risk of weight gain, eating habits, body dissatisfaction, and symptoms of depression were analyzed at the start of the study, and at six weeks, six months, a year, and two years after the study began.
Researchers discovered that women with apple-shaped bodies (i.e. those who have more excess fat around their midsections) were at a 53 percent greater risk of experiencing “loss of control” eating episodes than those with other body types. They were also less satisfied with their bodies, regardless of their total weight.
(Loss of control eating is seen as a precursor to binge eating. Binge eating is classified as eating unusually large amounts of food, while loss of control eating can be in small and large amounts.)
Related: This Is Why You Have An Apple-Shaped Body
“Our findings show that this relationship is important and deserves additional attention,” study co-author Danielle Arigo, PhD, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Scranton, tells Yahoo Health.
Why is there a link? Lead study author Laura Berner, PhD, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of California, San Diego Eating Disorders Center for Treatment and Research, tells Yahoo Health that it’s possible there’s a genetic or biological mechanism that links a person’s central body fat storage and eating behavior.
She explains it this way: Our fat cells act like endocrine organs, releasing signals to our brain about how hungry and full we are. “It could be that where the fat is distributed influences how these signals get sent,” she says. Consequently, people with an apple-shaped body type may not get signals that they’re full as easily as those with other body types.
However, it may be psychological. “The standard for attractiveness in Western cultures is the hourglass shape,” Arigo says. “Regardless of weight, women whose shapes don’t fit with this ideal may see this discrepancy and feel dissatisfied with their own bodies.”
Arigo also points out that overweight or obese people are often associated with an apple shape, so there may be an added negative connotation for people with this body shape. And that can lead to loss of control eating, fueled by stress.
“It’s possible that dissatisfaction with one’s weight or shape, coupled with pressure and desire to lose weight, could create stress that is alleviated by eating (in the short-term),” she says. “In the long-term, using food to cope could exacerbate the problem.”
Regardless of the reason, identifying loss of control eating episodes early is important to help prevent additional disordered eating, Berman says.
There are steps people can take to lower their risk of loss of control eating, though. Arigo recommends regular physical activity, which can improve mood and body satisfaction, regardless of someone’s weight or shape. She also recommends working to develop healthy ways of dealing with stress to reduce the odds you’ll turn to food in high-pressure situations.
Acceptance of your own body type and changing your idea of a body shape that is “ideal” is also crucial, Berner says.
Berner is hopeful that her work will fuel additional research into why people with apple-shaped bodies are more likely to have loss of control eating. “We went into this not knowing if we would find a relationship,” she says. “Ideally more people will look into this and why it exists.”