College of Psychology: Faculty Articles


Bulimarexia and black women : A survey study

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 1985

Publication Title









Bulimarexia (bulimia, or the binge-purge syndrome) is characterized by frequent binge eating during which an inordinate amount of food is consumed in a relatively short period of time. In an attempt to rid oneself of the dreaded calories, the bulimarexic typically purges by self-induced vomiting, laxative abuse, or fasting. This study was designed to address the following questions: 1) Is bulimarexia as prevalent among black women as it is among white women? 2) Is the tendency to binge and/or purge among black women related to how strongly they espouse the typically white, middle-class, cultural values of high achievement, other-orientation, and an obsession with thinness? 3) What, if any, are the prognostic, preventive, and treatment implications for black bulimarexic women? A survey instrument was developed to measure the self-reported incidence rate of bingeing and purging, personality characteristics, weight, socioeconomic status (SES) and body-related attitudes of a sample of 244 black college women. Preliminary analyses suggest that black subjects, although heavier, were more positive regarding their current weight and body image than whites. Furthermore, upon controlling for all other variables, black women who purged more often tended to be of higher SES and to display a more negative attitude toward their weight. Results suggest that obesity may be the best predictor of bulimarexia among black college women and that purging, not bingeing, may serve as an indicator of the existence of bulimia.