Prevalence rates and psychological predictors of secretive eating in overweight and obese adolescents

Stephanie Knatz, Tamara Maginot, Mary Story, Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, Kerri Boutelle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Scopus citations


Background: To date, there is no research describing secretive eating behaviors in overweight and obese youth despite research supporting the existence of eating disturbances and aberrant eating behaviors in these populations. Knowledge of these behaviors is important because of their associations with excess weight gain and psychosocial health. The purpose of this study was to examine the prevalence of secretive eating and associations with psychological and parent variables in overweight and obese adolescents. Methods: Surveys were completed by 107 overweight and obese (BMI ≥ 85 th percentile) adolescents, aged 12 to 20, and their parents. Adolescents were queried on secretive eating, depressive symptoms, anxiety symptoms, anger, body satisfaction, and selfesteem. Parents reported on parental depressive symptoms and parental secretive eating. Logistic regressions equations were used to examine the impact of psychological factors on adolescent secretive eating. Results: One-third (34%) of adolescents endorsed at least one episode of secretive eating within the month prior to the survey. Depressive symptoms, self-esteem, anger symptoms, and anxiety symptoms were independently associated with self-reported secretive eating. In multivariate analyses, adolescent depressive symptomology was the only psychological variable related to secretive eating. Those reporting depressive symptoms were 5 times more likely to endorse secretive eating than those who did not report depressive symptoms. Conclusions: Secretive eating is common among overweight and obese youth, and is associated with depressive symptoms in this sample of adolescents. Secretive eating may be indicative of psychological concerns, such as depression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)30-35
Number of pages6
JournalChildhood Obesity
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2011

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