Emotional Eaters Susceptible To Weight Regain
Just in time
for the start of the holiday eating season a new study finds that
dieters who have the tendency to eat in response to external factors,
such as at festive celebrations, have fewer problems with their weight
loss than those who eat in response to emotions (internal factors). Led
by researchers at The Miriam Hospital's Weight Control & Diabetes
Research Center, the study also found that emotional eating was
associated with weight regain in successful losers.
that the more people report eating in response to thoughts and
feelings, such as, 'when I feel lonely, I console myself by eating,'
the less weight they lost in a behavioral weight loss program. In
addition, amongst successful weight losers, those who report emotional
eating are more likely to regain," says lead author Heather Niemeier,
Ph.D., of The Miriam Hospital's Weight Control & Diabetes Research
Center and The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.
important, the authors note, because one of greatest challenges facing
the field of obesity treatment remains the problem of weight regain
following weight loss.
in behavioral weight loss programs lose an average of 10 percent of
their bodyweight and these losses are associated with significant
health benefits. Unfortunately, the majority of participants return to
their baseline weight within three to five years," Niemeier says.
study, researchers analyzed individual's responses to a questionnaire
widely used in obesity research called the Eating Inventory. The Eating
Inventory is a clinical tool that is designed to assess three aspects
of eating behavior in individuals -- cognitive restraint, hunger, and
Niemeier and her team focused on the disinhibition component of the
Eating Inventory because although past studies have suggested that
disinhibition as a whole is an accurate predictor of weight loss, the
scale itself includes multiple factors that could independently
disinhibition scale evaluates impulsive eating in response to
emotional, cognitive, or social cues. Our goal was to examine and
isolate the factors that make up the disinhibition scale, and then
determine if these factors have a specific relationship to weight loss
and regain," says Niemeier.
in the study included two groups of individuals. The first group
consisted of 286 overweight men and women who were currently
participating in a behavioral weight loss program. The second group
included 3,345 members of the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR),
an ongoing study of adults who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept it
off for at least one year.
these two very different sample groups, we were able to assess the
effect of disinhibition on individuals attempting to lose weight, as
well as on those who are trying to maintain weight loss," the authors
examination, the researchers found that the components within the
disinhibition scale could be grouped into two distinct factors --
external and internal disinhibition.
disinhibition describes experiences that are external to the individual
such as, "When I am with someone who is overeating, I usually overeat,
too" and "I usually eat too much at social occasions, like parties and
picnics". Internal disinhibition refers to eating in response to
thoughts and feelings that are internal to the individual and includes
emotional eating such as, "When I feel lonely, I console myself by
eating" and "While on a diet, if I eat a food that is not allowed, I
often splurge and eat other high calorie foods".
showed that in both groups of participants, internal disinhibition was
a significant predictor of weight over time. For participants in the
weight loss program, the higher the level of internal disinhibition,
the less weight an individual lost over time. The same was true for
maintainers in the NWCR in that internal disinhibition predicted weight
regain over the first year of registry membership.
"Interestingly, external disinhibition did not predict weight loss or regain in either sample at anytime," notes Niemeier.
the authors note that internal disinhibition predicted weight change
over time above and beyond other psychological issues including
depression, binge eating, and perceived stress.
suggest that we need to pay more attention to eating triggered by
emotions or thoughts as they clearly play a significant role in weight
loss. Current treatments provide minimal assistance with eating in
response to feelings or thoughts," says Niemeier.
"Modifying our treatments to address these triggers for unhealthy
eating and help patients learn alternative strategies could improve
their ability to maintain weight loss behaviors, even in the face of
affective and cognitive difficulties."'
was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and
Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health.
For more information on The Miriam Hospital's Weight Control & Diabetes Research Center, visit www.weightresearch.org.