Associations between weight-based teasing and disordered eating behaviors among youth

Eat Behav. 2021 Apr:41:101504. doi: 10.1016/j.eatbeh.2021.101504. Epub 2021 Mar 29.


Weight-based teasing (WBT) is commonly reported among youth and is associated with disinhibited and disordered eating. Specifically, youth who experience WBT may engage in disordered eating behaviors to cope with the resultant negative affect. Therefore, we examined associations between WBT and disordered eating behaviors among youth and assessed whether negative affect mediated these relationships. Two hundred one non-treatment seeking youth (8-17y) completed questionnaires assessing WBT, disinhibited eating, depression, and anxiety. Disordered eating and loss-of-control (LOC) eating were assessed via semi-structured interview. Analyses of covariance were conducted to examine relationships between WBT and eating-related variables, and bootstrapping mediation models were used to evaluate negative affect (a composite of depressive and anxiety symptoms) as a mediator of these associations. All models were adjusted for sex, race, age, and adiposity. Among 201 participants (13.1 ± 2.8y; 54.2% female; 30.3% Black; 32.8% with overweight/obesity), WBT was associated with emotional eating, eating in the absence of hunger, and disordered eating attitudes and behaviors (ps ≤ 0.02). These associations were all mediated by negative affect. WBT was also associated with a threefold greater likelihood of reporting a recent LOC eating episode (p = .049). Among boys and girls across weight strata, WBT was associated with multiple aspects of disordered eating and these relationships were mediated by negative affect. Longitudinal studies are needed to clarify the directionality of these associations and to identify subgroups of youth that may be particularly vulnerable to WBT and its sequelae.

Trial registration: NCT02390765.

Keywords: Adolescents; Children; Disordered eating; Loss-of-control eating; Negative affect; Weight-based teasing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity
  • Adolescent
  • Body Weight
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity
  • Overweight

Associated data