Relationship between desired weight and eating disorder pathology in youth

Hope K. Boyd*, Andrea E. Kass, Erin C. Accurso, Andrea B. Goldschmidt, Jennifer E. Wildes, Daniel Le Grange

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Objective: Individuals with eating disorders (ED), particularly anorexia nervosa (AN), and bulimia nervosa (BN), often wish to reduce their body weight in pursuit of a thin ideal, but no study has examined the relation between desired weight and ED pathology in a clinical population of youth. Given the potential impact of desired weight on normalization of eating patterns and weight restoration, we examined the relation between desired weight and ED pathology in youth with AN or BN. Methods: Participants were 340 youth presenting to an outpatient ED clinical research program. Height and weight were measured, and youth completed the Eating Disorder Examination. Desired weight was operationalized as “desired weight percentage” (calculated as a percentage of expected body weight [EBW]) and “weight difference percentage” (actual weight minus desired weight, divided by actual weight and multiplied by 100). Results: Youth with AN desired to be a lower percentage of their EBW than youth with BN (p <.001). However, youth with AN, on average, wanted to gain 5.28% of their body weight and youth with BN wanted to lose 13.60% (p <.001). Desired weight percentage and weight difference percentage were associated with greater ED psychopathology, controlling for ED diagnosis, age, and sex (ps <.001). Discussion: Desired weight is associated with elevated ED psychopathology. Weight goals may shift as individuals progress through treatment; if they do not, then desired weight may be an important indicator of a lack of psychological progress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)963-969
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Eating Disorders
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2017


  • actual-desired weight discrepancy
  • anorexia nervosa
  • bulimia nervosa
  • desired weight

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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