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Intuitive eating longitudinally predicts better psychological health and lower use of disordered eating behaviors: findings from EAT 2010–2018



To examine longitudinal associations of intuitive eating (IE), defined as eating according to internal hunger and satiety cues, with psychological health outcomes and disordered eating behaviors.


Data from a diverse sample of 1491 participants (54.1% female, 19.7% non-Hispanic white) followed from adolescence (baseline; Mage = 14.5 years) into young adulthood (follow-up; Mage = 22.2 years) came from the population-based EAT 2010–2018 (Eating and Activity over Time) study. Logistic regression models predicting psychological health outcomes and disordered eating behaviors at follow-up simultaneously included baseline IE and change in IE from baseline to follow-up as predictors, adjusting for demographic covariates, body mass index, and outcome at baseline.


Greater baseline IE and increases in IE from baseline to follow-up were both associated with lower odds of high depressive symptoms, low self-esteem, high body dissatisfaction, unhealthy weight control behaviors (e.g., fasting, skipping meals), extreme weight control behaviors (e.g., taking diet pills, vomiting), and binge eating at 8-year follow-up. Particularly strong protective associations were observed for binge eating, such that a one-point higher IE score at baseline was associated with 74% lower odds of binge eating at follow-up, and a one-point higher increase in IE score from baseline to follow-up was associated with 71% lower odds of binge eating at follow-up.


These results indicate that IE longitudinally predicts better psychological and behavioral health across a range of outcomes and suggest that IE may be a valuable intervention target for improving psychological health and reducing disordered eating behaviors, particularly binge eating.

Level of evidence

Level III, cohort study.

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This research was supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (Grant numbers R01HL084064 and R35HL139853, PI: Dianne Neumark-Sztainer) and the National Institute of Mental Health (grant number T32MH082761, PI: Scott Crow). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the National Institute of Mental Health, or the National Institutes of Health.


This research was supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (Grant numbers R01HL084064 and R35HL139853, PI: Dianne Neumark-Sztainer) and the National Institute of Mental Health (Grant number T32MH082761, PI: Scott Crow).

Author information

DN-S and NL were responsible for the conception, design, and data collection of the EAT 2010–2018 study. All authors contributed to the conception and design of the study presented in the manuscript. Data analyses were performed by VH, ST, and MS. The first draft of the manuscript was written by VH and all authors commented on iterations of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Correspondence to Vivienne M. Hazzard.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the University of Minnesota Institutional Review Board and the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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

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Hazzard, V.M., Telke, S.E., Simone, M. et al. Intuitive eating longitudinally predicts better psychological health and lower use of disordered eating behaviors: findings from EAT 2010–2018. Eat Weight Disord (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40519-020-00852-4

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  • Appetite regulation
  • Depression
  • Self-concept
  • Body image
  • Feeding and eating disorders