Overeating with and without loss of control: Associations with weight status, weight-related characteristics, and psychosocial health

Int J Eat Disord. 2015 Dec;48(8):1150-7. doi: 10.1002/eat.22465. Epub 2015 Sep 14.


Objective: The relative importance of loss of control and overeating in the relationship between binge eating and eating-related and general psychopathology has been debated in the literature. This study assessed the prevalence and correlates of overeating with and without loss of control within a diverse, population-based sample of adolescents.

Method: A highly diverse (81.1% non-White) sample of adolescents (n = 2,793) from EAT-2010 (Eating and Activity in Teens) completed self-report questionnaires assessing eating-related psychopathology, substance use, nonsuicidal self-injury, depressive symptoms, and self-esteem.

Results: Overeating without loss of control was reported by 6.9% of girls and 5.0% of boys, while 9.6% of girls and 6.3% of boys reported overeating with loss of control (binge eating). Overall, overeating (with or without loss of control) was positively associated with unhealthy or extreme weight control behaviors, dieting, nonsuicidal self-injury, lower body satisfaction, and self-esteem, and higher depressive symptoms relative to no overeating. Among girls, binge eating was associated with unhealthy or extreme weight control behaviors, lower self-esteem, and higher depressive symptoms relative to overeating without loss of control, while in boys, binge eating was associated with greater cigarette usage, lower body satisfaction, and greater depressive symptoms than overeating without loss of control (although cigarette usage was comparable in boys reporting binge eating and no overeating).

Discussion: Any overeating, with or without loss of control, was associated with multiple adverse correlates among adolescents. Loss of control was uniquely associated with multiple health indicators, further highlighting its importance as a marker of severity of overeating.

Keywords: EAT-2010; adolescent; correlates; loss of control; overeating; psychopathology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Body Image / psychology
  • Body Weight*
  • Bulimia / epidemiology
  • Bulimia / psychology*
  • Child
  • Depression / psychology
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperphagia / epidemiology
  • Hyperphagia / psychology*
  • Male
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Prevalence
  • Self Concept
  • Self Report
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / psychology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology