Ambivalence Toward Eating and Emotional Eating Predict Weight Fluctuations: a Longitudinal Study in Four Waves

  • C. Keller
  • M. Siegrist


Background: Excessive weight fluctuations pose serious challenges to people’s health. Research suggests that the interplay between cognitive dietary restraint and counter-regulative overeating impairs weight control. However, there is little longitudinal research. We examined the causal influence of eating styles on weight fluctuations. In addition, the counter-regulative effects of ambivalence toward eating due to the incompatibility of the two goals of dieting and enjoying food were examined. Methods: In a random sample from the general population (N = 2733, 49% males in 2013) a longitudinal survey was conducted over four consecutive years (2010-2013). Self-reported weight was used to calculate the variance of (three) weight changes from one wave to the next. Findings: Separate regression models controlling for age revealed similar results for men and women: high levels of ambivalence and emotional eating in the beginning of the study resulted in significantly increased weight fluctuations in consecutive years. Restraint and external eating had no effect. Conclusion: Counter-regulative aspects, as opposed to dietary restraint, resulted in weight fluctuations. Ambivalence toward eating due to the conflict between dieting and enjoying food, as well as eating in order to cope with emotional distress, need to be addressed in order to prevent health-damaging weight fluctuations.