Do stress eating or compulsive eating influence metabolic health in a mindfulness-based weight loss intervention?

Health Psychol. 2020 Feb;39(2):147-158. doi: 10.1037/hea0000807. Epub 2019 Nov 14.


Objective: We aimed to understand the associations of compulsive eating (CE) and stress eating (SE) with metabolic health among adults with obesity and whether mindfulness-based weight loss training may buffer these associations.

Method: We used data from a trial in which we randomized 194 participants with obesity to a diet-exercise weight loss intervention with either mindful eating training plus mindfulness-based eating awareness and stress management training (n = 100) or active control components (n = 94). We measured CE, SE, weight, and fasting blood glucose (FBG) at baseline, and 6, 12 months, and 18 months. We tested CE and SE as both moderators and mediators of intervention effects on changes in metabolic health.

Results: Participants higher (+ 1 SD) in CE at baseline randomized to the mindfulness (vs. control) intervention had greater improvements in FBG at 18 months (p = .05). Twelve-month reductions in CE mediated the effect of the intervention on changes in FBG and weight at 12 and 18 months postbaseline (p ≤ .05). Furthermore, those higher (+ 1 SD) in SE at baseline were nearly 2 BMI points higher than those lower (-1 SD) in SE (p < .01). Decreases in SE (B = 3.42; p < .001; 95% CI [2.55, 4.30]) and CE (B = 0.45; p < .001; 95% CI [0.36, 0.54]) in all participants at 6 months were associated with greater weight loss at 18 months.

Conclusions: Those with greater compulsive eating may reduce risk for metabolic decline by participating in a mindfulness-based weight loss program. Future obesity interventions should consider tailoring treatment toward trait-level characteristics, such as compulsive eating. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).

Trial registration: NCT00960414.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Female
  • Food Addiction / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mindfulness
  • Weight Loss / physiology*
  • Weight Reduction Programs / methods*
  • Young Adult

Associated data