Examining the association between body trust and body mass index with quantile regression

  • Mary E. DuffyEmail author
  • Megan L. Rogers
  • Grace A. Kennedy
  • Pamela K. Keel
  • Thomas E. Joiner
Brief Report



Schachter’s externality theory posits a connection between the inability to eat according to internal cues and higher body mass index (BMI); however, related work has not investigated associations between body trust and the wide range of BMIs found in general samples. This study examined the association between body trust and BMI across levels of BMI to determine whether this relationship differed as a function of BMI level.


Participants were 534 adults (55.4% female), mean age 36 years, BMIs 15.13–67.90 (M = 27.89, SD = 7.25), recruited via MTurk. They completed self-report assessments of body trust, height, and weight. Quantile regression was utilized to estimate effects of body trust on BMI at five equidistant quantiles of BMI.


Overall linear regression analyses indicated that body trust was significantly negatively associated with BMI. Quantile regression revealed a significant negative relationship at each quantile of BMI, and Wald tests indicated the association was significantly stronger at the 0.7 and 0.9 quantiles than at the 0.1, 0.3, and 0.5 quantiles, which did not differ.


Quantile regression identified a stronger relationship between body trust and BMI at 0.7 and 0.9 quantiles than at 0.1, 0.3, and 0.5 quantiles of BMI. Results align with the externality hypothesis, which suggests those at higher weights experience difficulty using internal cues to guide eating. A weaker-than-expected association between body trust and low BMI may be due to restricted range (few low-BMI participants). Replication in eating disorder samples is merited.

Level of evidence

Level V, cross-sectional descriptive study.


Quantile regression Body mass index Weight Body trust Intuitive eating 



This work was in part supported by the Military Suicide Research Consortium (MSRC), an effort supported by the Department of Defense (W81XWH-16-20003), the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF 1449440), and the National Institutes of Mental Health (R01MH111263). Opinions, interpretations, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the authors and are not necessarily endorsed by the Military Suicide Research Consortium, the Department of Defense, the National Science Foundation, or the National Institutes of Mental Health.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures were approved by the Florida State University Institutional Review Board and were conducted in accordance with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Participants read an online informed consent document and provided their electronic informed consent before taking part in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA

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