Characterizing fear of weight gain and sensitivity to weight gain in individuals seeking weight loss treatment

Anastasia J. Bullock, Jessica Barber, Rachel D. Barnes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Purpose: Weight concern, including fear of weight gain and sensitivity to weight gain, is indicative of disordered eating in individuals with underweight or healthy weight. It is unknown, however, whether or how these constructs present in individuals with excess weight, particularly among those with binge-eating disorder (BED). This study sought to characterize fear of weight gain and sensitivity to weight gain and examine their relationship with disordered eating and depression symptoms, in individuals seeking weight loss treatment, both with and without BED. Methods: Adults seeking weight loss treatment in an urban primary care clinic (N = 131) completed the Eating Disorder Examination interview and Beck Depression Inventory. Height and weight were collected. Results: Clinical levels of fear of weight gain and sensitivity to weight gain were present in this sample. Individuals with BED reported experiencing fear of weight gain (48.6%), significantly more than those without BED (20.9%); both groups reported similar and clinically elevated sensitivity to weight gain. Both constructs were related to greater levels of disordered eating and depression symptoms, at times based on BED status. Fear of weight gain was associated with overvaluation of weight and shape for those without BED only. Objective and subjective bulimic episodes were unrelated to fear of weight gain or sensitivity to weight gain, regardless of BED status. Conclusion: Fear of weight gain and sensitivity to weight gain were common in this sample and may be maladaptive, as evidenced by associations with elevated eating psychopathology. Future studies should examine these variables within larger samples and should employ longitudinal designs. Level of evidence: Level III: case–control analytic study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalEating and Weight Disorders
Early online dateFeb 12 2020
DOIs
StateE-pub ahead of print - Feb 12 2020

Keywords

  • Binge-eating disorder
  • Fear of weight gain
  • Obesity
  • Overweight
  • Sensitivity to weight gain

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article

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