Improving prediction of eating-related behavioral outcomes with zero-sensitive regression models

Katherine Schaumberg, Erin E. Reilly, Lisa M. Anderson, Sasha Gorrell, Shirley B. Wang, Margarita Sala

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Objective: Outcome variables gauging the frequency of specific disordered eating behaviors (e.g., binge eating, vomiting) are common in the study of eating and health behaviors. The nature of such data presents several analytical challenges, which may be best addressed through the application of underutilized statistical approaches. While zero-sensitive models are well-supported by methodologists, application of these models has yet to gain traction among a widespread audience of researchers who study eating-related behaviors. The current study examined several approaches to predicting count-based behaviors, including zero-sensitive (i.e., zero-inflated and hurdle) regression models. Method: Exploration of alternative models to predict eating-related behaviors occurred in two parts. In Part 1, participants (N = 524; 54% female) completed the Eating Disorder Examination-Questionnaire and Daily Stress Inventory. We considered the theoretical basis and practical utility of several alternative approaches for predicting the frequency of binge eating and compensatory behaviors, including ordinary least squares (OLS), logistic, Poisson, negative binomial, and zero-sensitive models. In Part 2, we completed Monte Carlo simulations comparing negative binomial, zero-inflated negative binomial, and negative binomial hurdle models to further explore when these models are most useful. Results: Traditional OLS regression models were generally a poor fit for the data structure. Zero-sensitive models, which are not limited to traditional distribution assumptions, were preferable for predicting count-based outcomes. In the data presented, zero-sensitive models were useful in modeling behaviors that were relatively rare (laxative use and vomiting, 9.7% endorsed) along with those that were somewhat common (binge eating, 33.4% endorsed; driven exercise, 40.7% endorsed). Simulations indicated missing data, sample size, and the number of zeros may impact model fit. Discussion: Zero-sensitive approaches hold promise for answering key questions about the presence and frequency of common eating-related behaviors and improving the specificity of relevant statistical models. The current manuscript provides practical guidance to aid the use of these models when studying eating-related behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)252-261
Number of pages10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier Ltd


  • Binge eating
  • Compensatory behaviors
  • Count data
  • Eating disorders
  • Regression
  • Zero-sensitive


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