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Attribution of weight regain to emotional reasons amongst European adults with overweight and obesity who regained weight following a weight loss attempt

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Kirby Sainsbury, Dr Elizabeth EvansORCiD, Professor Falko Sniehotta



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Purpose: Despite the wide availability of effective weight loss programmes, maintenance of weight loss remains challenging. Difficulties in emotion regulation are associated with binge eating and may represent one barrier to long-term intervention effectiveness in obesity. The purpose of this study was to determine the relationship between emotion regulation difficulties and the extent of weight regain in a sample of adults who had lost, and then regained, weight, and to examine the characteristics associated with emotional difficulties. Methods: 2000 adults from three European countries (UK, Portugal, and Denmark) completed an online survey assessing self-reported weight loss and regain following their most recent weight loss attempt. They also completed a binge eating disorder screening questionnaire and, if they had regained weight, were asked if they attributed it to any emotional factors (a proxy for emotion regulation difficulties). Spearman’s correlations and logistic regression were used to assess the associations between emotion regulation, weight regain, and strategy use. Results: Emotion regulation difficulties were associated with greater weight regain (N=1594 who lost and regained weight). Attribution to emotional reasons was associated with younger age, female gender, loss of control and binge eating, lower perceptions of success at maintenance, using more dietary and self-regulatory strategies in weight loss, and fewer dietary strategies in maintenance. Conclusions: Weight-related emotion regulation difficulties are common amongst regainers and are associated with regaining more weight. Affected individuals are already making frequent use of behavioural strategies during weight loss, but do not apply these consistently beyond active attempts. Simply encouraging the use of more numerous strategies, without concurrently teaching emotion regulation skills, may not be an effective means to improving weight outcomes in this group.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Sainsbury K, Evans EH, Pedersen S, Marques MM, Teixeira PJ, Lahteenmaki L, Stubbs RJ, Heitmann BL, Sniehotta FF

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Eating and Weight Disorders

Year: 2019

Volume: 24

Issue: 2

Pages: 351-361

Print publication date: 01/04/2019

Online publication date: 16/02/2018

Acceptance date: 01/02/2018

Date deposited: 16/02/2018

ISSN (print): 1124-4909

ISSN (electronic): 1590-1262

Publisher: Springer International Publishing


DOI: 10.1007/s40519-018-0487-0


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Funder referenceFunder name
EU H2020