Helpful or harmful? The comparative value of self-weighing and calorie counting versus intuitive eating on the eating disorder symptomology of college students

Eat Weight Disord. 2018 Dec;23(6):841-848. doi: 10.1007/s40519-018-0562-6. Epub 2018 Aug 28.


Objective: The current study evaluated the comparative implications of self-weighing and calorie counting versus intuitive eating (IE) on the eating disorder (ED) severity of college students.

Methods: In this cross-sectional study, college students in the US [N = 902; 68% female; mean body mass index (BMI) = 24.3] completed the web-based Healthy Bodies Study in 2015.

Results: A hierarchical multiple regression analysis revealed that elevated BMI, more frequent self-weighing and calorie counting, and lower IE scores predicted increased ED severity. The results of Kruskal-Wallis H tests indicated that participants with elevated weight statuses engaged in self-weighing and calorie counting more frequently, and possessed lower IE scores, than their lower weight counterparts.

Conclusion: Engaging in self-weighing and calorie counting was adversely associated with ED severity among the present sample of college students. Cultivating IE within health promotion efforts may, instead, lead to favorable eating-related outcomes that may translate to the holistic health of this population.

Level of evidence: V cross-sectional descriptive study.

Keywords: Eating disorders; Intuitive eating; Obesity; Self-monitoring; Young adult.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Eating / psychology*
  • Energy Intake / physiology*
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Students
  • Young Adult