The behavioral pathway model to overweight and obesity: coping strategies, eating behaviors and body mass index

  • Carmen VarelaEmail author
  • Ana Andrés
  • Carmina Saldaña
Original Article



Obese and overweight people deal with more daily problems and stressful situations than normal-weight individuals, for example, discrimination and bias. The aims of the present study were twofold: to identify differences between overweight and normal-weight people in coping strategies and eating behaviors, and to examine the relationship between coping strategies, eating behaviors and BMI.


Sample of the present study consisted of 473 participants, 76.7% women (mean age = 32.7; SD = 11.4). Participants completed an ad hoc sociodemographic data questionnaire, the Coping Strategies Inventory, and the Dutch Eating Behavior Questionnaire. Welch’s t test and X2 comparison analysis were used to identify differences in coping strategies and eating behaviors, according two BMI groups, normal weight and overweight. To analyze the relationship between coping strategies, eating behaviors and BMI, a structural equation modeling was conducted.


Overweight participants score significantly higher in passive coping strategies such as self-criticism, wishful thinking and social withdrawal, and unhealthy eating behaviors such as emotional eating and restrained eating. Structural equation modeling included these variables, coping strategies are more likely to conduct to unhealthy eating behaviors and these are more likely to promote and maintain a high BMI. The model showed an adequate data fit.


This research proposes a relationship between the variables analyzed. It has been proved that passive coping strategies predict a high BMI via unhealthy eating behaviors, especially emotional eating. These results are promising to improve the current prevention obesity programs and weight control treatments.

Level of evidence

Level III, case–control analytic study.


Obesity Overweight Coping strategies Eating behaviors Structural equation modeling 



This study is part of the project PSI2013-45292-R funded by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness.

Compliance with ethical standard

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants 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.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychobiology, Faculty of PsychologyUniversity of BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.Faculty of Psychology, Education Sciences and SportUniversity Ramon LlullBarcelonaSpain

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