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Helpful or harmful? The comparative value of self-weighing and calorie counting versus intuitive eating on the eating disorder symptomology of college students



The current study evaluated the comparative implications of self-weighing and calorie counting versus intuitive eating (IE) on the eating disorder (ED) severity of college students.


In this cross-sectional study, college students in the US [N = 902; 68% female; mean body mass index (BMI) = 24.3] completed the web-based Healthy Bodies Study in 2015.


A hierarchical multiple regression analysis revealed that elevated BMI, more frequent self-weighing and calorie counting, and lower IE scores predicted increased ED severity. The results of Kruskal–Wallis H tests indicated that participants with elevated weight statuses engaged in self-weighing and calorie counting more frequently, and possessed lower IE scores, than their lower weight counterparts.


Engaging in self-weighing and calorie counting was adversely associated with ED severity among the present sample of college students. Cultivating IE within health promotion efforts may, instead, lead to favorable eating-related outcomes that may translate to the holistic health of this population.

Level of Evidence

V cross-sectional descriptive study.

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We wish to thank the Healthy Bodies Study research team at the University of Michigan for the use of their data to further this research.


This research did not receive any specific Grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

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Correspondence to Kelly A. Romano.

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On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

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All procedures were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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All participants provided informed consent prior to participating in the present study.

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Romano, K.A., Swanbrow Becker, M.A., Colgary, C.D. et al. Helpful or harmful? The comparative value of self-weighing and calorie counting versus intuitive eating on the eating disorder symptomology of college students. Eat Weight Disord 23, 841–848 (2018).

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  • Eating disorders
  • Obesity
  • Self-monitoring
  • Intuitive eating
  • Young adult