Improvement in emotional eating associated with an enhanced body image in obese women: mediation by weight-management treatments' effects on self-efficacy to resist emotional cues to eating

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To assess effects of cognitive-behavioural weight-loss treatments on self-efficacy to control emotionally cued eating and whether those changes mediate relationships between body satisfaction and emotional eating.


Emotional eating is common, especially in women with obesity. A better understanding of relationships of its psychosocial correlates might benefit behavioural weight-loss treatments.


A field-based, quantitative study incorporated two theoretically derived weight-loss treatments using repeated measures analyses that employed validated surveys.


Women with obesity volunteered for a community-based weight-loss study and were assigned to either a treatment of a manual plus phone support (n = 47), or in-person contacts emphasizing self-regulation (n = 48), over 6 months. Both emphasized physical activity, healthy eating and building self-efficacy for enabling the health-behaviour changes. Data were collected between 2013–2014. Multiple regression analyses assessed predictors of self-efficacy change. Mixed-model analysis of variances assessed treatment differences in psychosocial changes. Mediation analyses assessed mediation of the relationships between body satisfaction and emotional eating changes.


Changes in Overall mood and Self-regulation significantly predicted change in Self-efficacy to control emotionally cued eating. Changes in Body satisfaction, Emotional eating, Mood, Self-regulating eating and Self-efficacy were significant overall, and each significantly greater in the in-person treatment. Self-efficacy significantly mediated the relationship between changes in Body satisfaction and Emotional eating total (and Emotional eating when depressed or anxious, but not when frustrated/angry).


Results clarified mediation of the dynamic relationship between body satisfaction and emotional eating, which might enable behavioural weight-loss treatments to better-address emotional eating.

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