Emotional eating is associated with weight loss success among adults enrolled in a weight loss program


To examine associations between decreased emotional eating and weight loss success; and whether participation in a behavioral weight loss intervention was associated with a greater reduction in emotional eating over time compared to usual care. Secondary data analysis of a randomized controlled trial conducted at two university medical centers with 227 overweight adults with diabetes. Logistic and standard regression analyses examined associations between emotional eating change and weight loss success (i.e., weight loss of ≥7 % of body weight and decrease in BMI). After 6 months of intervention, decreased emotional eating was associated with greater odds of weight loss success (p = .05). The odds of weight loss success for subjects with decreased emotional eating at 12 months were 1.70 times higher than for subjects with increased emotional eating. No differences in change in emotional eating were found between subjects in the behavioral weight loss intervention and usual care. Strategies to reduce emotional eating may be useful to promote greater weight loss among overweight adults with diabetes.

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This study was supported by Jenny Craig, Inc. (Carlsbad, California). Funding was provided through a clinical trial contract to the coordinating center (School of Medicine, UCSD). By contractual agreement, scientists at UCSD and the Health Partners Institute have responsibility and independence regarding data management, analysis, and publication. The sponsor contributed to the development of the design and protocol through discussions with the investigators during the development phase of the study, and the sponsor provided program activities and materials, including prepackaged foods, to subjects assigned to the commercial weight loss program study groups. The funding sponsor had no role in the conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis and interpretation of the data; preparation, review or approval of the manuscript (except for verifying the specific weight loss program activities that comprised the intervention); and decision to submit the manuscript for publication.

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Correspondence to Abby Braden.

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Conflict of interest

Abby Braden, Shirley W. Flatt, Kerri N. Boutelle, David Strong, Nancy E. Sherwood and Cheryl L. Rock declares that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and animal rights and Informed consent

All procedures followed were in accordance with ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000. Informed consent was obtained from all patients for being included in the study.

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Braden, A., Flatt, S.W., Boutelle, K.N. et al. Emotional eating is associated with weight loss success among adults enrolled in a weight loss program. J Behav Med 39, 727–732 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10865-016-9728-8

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  • Obesity
  • Emotional eating
  • Diabetes
  • Randomized clinical trial