Psychological status and weight variability over eight years: Results from look AHEAD

the Look AHEAD Research Group

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Objective: Cross-sectional studies suggest an association between weight cycling and psychological status. Although this is often interpreted as suggesting that weight cycles "cause" psychological distress, the relationship could be bidirectional. This study provides a prospective analysis of the bidirectional association between weight variability and psychological status over an 8-year period in overweight/obese adults with Type 2 diabetes. Method: Data were from the first 8 years of Look AHEAD, a randomized controlled trial comparing health outcomes in individuals with Type 2 diabetes assigned to an intensive lifestyle intervention designed to produce weight loss or a diabetes education and support control group. Psychological status (mental health, depressive symptoms, binge eating) was assessed via surveys and were examined in relation to weight variability at both baseline and year 8. Weight variability was derived from 8 possible annual measurements from participants who had a minimum of 3 consecutive body weight measurements (N = 4,774) and operationalized as the number of year-to-year cycles and the coefficient of variation across all available weight measurements. Results: Controlling for study group, higher baseline scores on mental health (Short Form-36 Mental Component Summary) and lower levels of depressive symptomatology (Beck Depression Inventory) and binge eating (Questionnaire on Eating and Weight Patterns) were associated with significantly less subsequent weight variability. The prospective association between weight variability and psychological status at year 8 was less robust. Conclusions: These results suggest that the cross-sectional relationship between weight variability and psychological status is due primarily to poorer psychological function preceding greater weight instability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)238-246
Number of pages9
JournalHealth Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Carly R. Pacanowski, Department of Behavioral Health and Nutrition, University of Delaware; Jennifer A. Linde, Division of Epidemiology & Community Health, University of Minnesota; Lucy F. Faulconbridge, Pearlman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania; Mace Coday, University of Tennessee Health Science Center; Monika M. Safford, Department of Medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College, Cornell University; Haiying Chen, Department of Biostatistics, Wake Forest University School of Medicine; Susan Z. Yanovski, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland; Linda J. Ewing, Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh; Rena Wing, Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, Brown University; Robert W. Jeffery, Division of Epidemiology & Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota; The Look AHEAD Research Group.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 American Psychological Association.


  • Binge eating
  • Body weight
  • Body weight change
  • Depressive symptoms
  • Mental health

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