Binge eating and binge eating disorder in a small-scale, Indigenous society: The view from Fiji

Objective: Although the cross-cultural prevalence of anorexia and bulimia nervosa has been investigated in multiple studies, little is known about the prevalence and correlates of binge eating and binge eating disorder (BED) cross-culturally. No published studies to date have explored BED in small-scale, indigenous, or developing societies. The current study investigated the prevalence and correlates of binge eating in a community sample of Fijian women living in rural Fiji.

Methods: Fifty ethnic Fijian women completed a self-report measure developed for this study on dieting and attitudes toward body shape and change, a Nadroga-language questionnaire on body image, and the Questionnaire on Eating and Weight Patterns-Revised (QEWP-R). Their height and weight were also measured. Patterns of dieting, high body mass index (BMI), and attitudes toward eating and body image were compared between women with and without a history of binge eating.

Results: Ten percent of respondents reported at least weekly episodes of binge eating during the past 6 months and 4% endorsed symptoms consistent with BED. Binge eating in this sample was associated significantly with a BMI value above 35, a history of dieting, and a high concern with body shape. Binge eating was not associated with several markers of acculturation in this sample, although it was associated with a key, nontraditionally Fijian (i.e., acculturated) attitude toward the body.

Discussion: Binge eating occurred in a social context with traditions concerning weight and diet widely disparate from Western populations. However, correlates of binge eating in this sample suggest that nontraditional Fijian attitudes toward weight and body shape play a contributory role.