Cognitive Therapy and Research

, Volume 31, Issue 6, pp 853–869 | Cite as

Controlling Your Weight Versus Controlling Your Lifestyle: How Beliefs about Weight Control Affect Risk for Disordered Eating, 10534_2006_9060_Fig3_HTML.gif Dissatisfaction and Self-esteem

  • Michele LaliberteEmail author
  • Mandi Newton
  • Randi McCabe
  • Jennifer S. Mills
Original Article



This study investigates the importance of weight control beliefs in increasing or decreasing one’s risk for disordered eating. Beliefs underlying weight control (“weight can and should be controlled”) and non-dieting (“strive for a healthy lifestyle and accept one’s natural weight”) approaches were measured and their relationship to disordered eating, body dissatisfaction and self-esteem examined.


In study 1, a new Weight Control Beliefs Questionnaire was evaluated and the relation to disordered eating, body dissatisfaction and self-esteem was investigated in a non-clinical sample of 138 women. In study 2, the questionnaire’s ability to distinguish eating disordered (n = 37) from non-eating disordered (n = 37) individuals was evaluated.

Results and discussion

A belief that one should control one’s weight (BCWeight) was significantly related to disturbed eating, body dissatisfaction and poor self-esteem, whereas a belief that one should control one’s lifestyle and accept the resulting weight (BCLifestyle) showed a strong protective relationship. The questionnaire successfully discriminated eating disordered from non-eating disordered individuals. It is suggested that treatment approaches for both eating disorders and obesity should be evaluated for their impact on these beliefs.


Weight control Obesity Disordered eating Eating disorders 


  1. American Psychological Association (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Author.Google Scholar
  2. Balch, P., & Ross, A. W. (1975). Predicting success in weight reduction as a function of locus of control: A unidimensional and multidimensional approach. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 43(1), 119.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Butryn, M. L., & Wadden, T. A. (2005). Treatment of overweight in children and adolescents: Does dieting increase the risk of eating disorders? International Journal of Eating Disorders, 37(4), 285–293.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cash, T. F. (1996). The body image workbook: An 8-step program for learning to like your looks. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.Google Scholar
  5. Cooper, P. J., & Steere, J. (1995). A comparison of two psychological treatments for bulimia nervosa: Implications for models of maintenance. Behavior Research and Therapy, 33(8), 875–885.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Crowne, D. P., & Marlowe, D. (1959). A new scale of social desirability independent of psychopathology. Journal of Consulting Psychology, 24(4), 349–354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Fairburn, C. G. (1995). Overcoming binge eating. NY: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  8. Fairburn, C. G., Jones, R., Peveler, R. C., Carr, S. J., Solomon, R. A., O’Connor, M., Burton, J., & Hope, R. A. (1991). Three psychological treatments for bulimia nervosa: A comparative trial. Archives of General Psychiatry, 48, 463–469.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. First, M. B., Spitzer, R. L., Gibbon, M., & Williams, J. B. W. (1996). Structured clinical interview for DSM-IV Axis I disorders, clinician version (SCID-CV). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press, Inc.Google Scholar
  10. Furnham, A., & Atkins, L. (1997). Dieting control beliefs and disordered eating. European Eating Disorders Review, 5(4), 278–296.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Garner, D. M. (1997). Psychoeducational principles in treatment. In D.M. Garner & P.E. Garfinkel (Eds.), Handbook of treatment for eating disorders (2nd ed.). NY: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  12. Garner, D. M. (1991). Eating Disorder Inventory-2: Professional manual. FL: Psychological Assessment Resources, Inc.Google Scholar
  13. Garner, D. M., Olmsted, M. P., Bohr, Y., & Garfinkel, P. E. (1982). The Eating Attitudes Test: Psychometric features and clinical correlates. Psychological Medicine, 12, 871–878.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Halmi, K. A., Agras, S., Mitchell, J., Wilson, T., Crow, S., Bryson, S. W., & Kraemer, H. (2002). Relapse predictors of patients with bulimia nervosa who achieved abstinence through cognitive behavioural therapy. Archives of General Psychiatry, 59, 1105–1109.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hill, A. J. (2002). Prevalence and demographics of dieting. In C. G. Fairburn & K. D. Brownell (Eds.), Eating disorders and obesity: A comprehensive handbook (2nd ed.). NY: The Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  16. Keesey, R. E. (1988). A set-point analysis of the regulation of body weight. In Stunkard A. J. (Ed.), Obesity. Philadelphia, PA: W.B. Saunders Co.Google Scholar
  17. Keesey, R. E., & Hirvonen, M. D. (1997). Body weight set-point: Determination and adjustment. Journal of Nutrition, 127(9), 1875S–1883S.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Maes, H. H., Neale, M. C., & Eaves, L. J. (1997). Genetic and environmental factors in relative body weight and human adiposity. Behavioral Genetics, 27(4), 325–351.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. McKinley, N. M., & Hyde, J. S. (1996). The objectified body consciousness scale: Development and validation. Psychology of Women’s Quarterly, 20, 181–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Nir, Z., & Neumann, L. (1995). Relationship among self-esteem, internal-external locus of control, and weight change after participation in a weight reduction program. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 51(4), 482–490. .PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Pi-Sunyar, R. X. (2002). Medical complications of obesity in adults. In C. G. Fairburn & K. D. Brownell (Eds.), Eating disorders and obesity: A comprehensive handbook (2nd ed.). NY: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  22. Polivy, J., & Herman, C. P. (1985). Dieting and binging: A causal analysis. American Psychologist, 40, 193–201.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Rosenberg, M. (1965). Society and the adolescent self-image. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Saltzer, E. B. (1982). The Weight Locus of Control (WLOC) scale: A specific measure for obesity research. Journal of Personality Assessment, 46(6), 620–628.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Stotland, S., & Zuroff, D. C. (1990). A new measure of weight locus of control: The Dieting Beliefs Scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 54(1 & 2), 191–203.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Stunkard, A. J., & Sobal, J. (1995). Psychosocial consequences of obesity. In Brownell K. D. & Fairburn C. B. (Eds.). Eating disorders and obesity: A comprehensive handbook. NY: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  27. Tabachnick, B. G., & Fidell, L. S. (1989). Using multivariate statistics (2nd ed.). NY: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  28. Thompson, S. C., Thomas, C., Rickabaugh, C. A., Tantamjarik, P., Otsuki, T., et al. (1998). Primary and secondary control over age-related changes in physical appearance. Journal of Personality, 66, 583–605.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Tiggemann, M., & Rothblum, E. D. (1997). Gender differences in internal beliefs about weight and negative attitudes towards self and others. Psychology of Women’s Quarterly, 21, 581–593.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Tobias, L. L., & MacDonald, M. L. (1977). Internal locus of control and weight loss: An insufficient condition. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 45(4), 647–653.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Twamley, E. W., & Davis, M. C. (1999). The sociocultural model of eating disturbance in young women: The effects of personal attributes and family environment. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 18, 467–489.Google Scholar
  32. Wilson, G. T., & Brownell, K. (2002). Behavioral treatment for obesity. In C. G. Fairburn, & K. D. Brownell (Eds.), Eating disorders and obesity: A comprehensive handbook (2nd ed.). NY: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  33. Wonderlich, S. A., de Zwaan, M., Mitchell, J. E., Peterson, C., & Crow, S. (2003). Psychological and dietary treatments of binge eating disorder: Conceptual implications. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 34(supplement), S58–S73.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michele Laliberte
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Mandi Newton
    • 3
  • Randi McCabe
    • 4
    • 2
  • Jennifer S. Mills
    • 5
  1. 1.Eating Disorders Program, Community Psychiatry, Fontbonne BldgSt. Joseph’s HealthcareHamiltonCanada
  2. 2.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences, Faculty of Health SciencesMcMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada
  3. 3.Faculty of NursingUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  4. 4.Anxiety Treatment and Research CentreSt. Joseph’s HealthcareHamiltonCanada
  5. 5.Department of PsychologyYork UniversityTorontoCanada

Personalised recommendations