Attribution of weight regain to emotional reasons amongst European adults with overweight and obesity who regained weight following a weight loss attempt

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  • Kirby Sainsbury, Newcastle University, United Kingdom
  • Elizabeth Evans, Newcastle University, United Kingdom
  • Susanne Pedersen
  • Martha M Marques, University of Lisbon, Portugal
  • Pedro J Teixeira, University of Lisbon, Portugal
  • Liisa Lähteenmäki
  • R. James Stubbs, University of Leeds, United Kingdom
  • Berit L Heitmann, Frederiksberg Hospital, Bispebjerg Hospital, University of Sydney, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Falko F Sniehotta, Newcastle University, Fuse, The UKCRC Centre for Translational Research in Public Health, United Kingdom
Purpose: Despite the wide availability of effective weight loss programmes, maintenance of weight loss remains challenging. Difficulties in emotion regulation are associated with binge eating and may represent one barrier to long-term intervention effectiveness in obesity. The purpose of this study was to determine the relationship between emotion regulation difficulties and the extent of weight regain in a sample of adults who had lost, and then regained, weight, and to examine the character-istics associated with emotional difficulties.
Methods: 2000 adults from three European countries (UK, Portugal, and Denmark) completed an online survey assessing self-reported weight loss and regain following their most recent weight loss attempt. They also completed a binge eating disorder screening questionnaire and, if they had regained weight, were asked if they attributed it to any emotional factors (a proxy for emotion regulation difficulties). Spearman’s correlations and logistic regression were used to assess the associa-tions between emotion regulation, weight regain, and strategy use.
Results: Emotion regulation difficulties were associated with greater weight regain (N= 1594 who lost and regained weight). Attribution to emotional reasons was associated with younger age, female gender, loss of control and binge eating, lower perceptions of success at maintenance, using more dietary and self-regulatory strategies in weight loss, and fewer dietary strategies in maintenance.
Conclusions: Weight-related emotion regulation difficulties are common amongst regainers and are associated with regain-ing more weight. Affected individuals are already making frequent use of behavioural strategies during weight loss, but do not apply these consistently beyond active attempts. Simply encouraging the use of more numerous strategies, without concurrently teaching emotion regulation skills, may not be an effective means to improving weight outcomes in this group.
Level of evidence: Level V, descriptive (cross-sectional) study
Original languageEnglish
JournalEating and Weight Disorders
Pages (from-to)351-361
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019

    Research areas

  • Binge eating, Emotion regulation, Loss of control, Obesity, Weight loss maintenance

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