Weight Loss History and Its Association with Self-Esteem and Eating Behaviors in Adolescents and Young Adults with Obesity

Obes Facts. 2023;16(3):293-300. doi: 10.1159/000529267. Epub 2023 Jan 25.


Introduction: Previous weight loss attempts in young people with obesity may have influenced their beliefs about themselves and contributed to maladaptive eating behaviors. Therefore, we aimed to investigate the association between previous weight loss with self-esteem and different eating behaviors in adolescents and young adults with obesity seeking specialty obesity care.

Methods: We performed a cross-sectional study, where a total of 224 participants with obesity, aged 16-25, self-reported the amount and the frequency of previous weight loss of 5 kg or more. Self-esteem was assessed with Rosenberg's Self-Esteem Scale and eating behavior with the Three-Factor Eating Questionnaire-Revised21. Linear regression was used to analyze associations between the amount of weight loss (no weight loss, 5-10 kg, and >10 kg) and the frequency of weight loss ≥5 kg (0, 1, and ≥2 times) with self-esteem and eating behaviors.

Results: We found that both those who had lost 5-10 kg and those who had lost ≥5 kg twice or more, had statistically significantly higher cognitive restraint eating scores β = 7.03 (95% CI: 0.004-14.05) and β = 8.32 (95% CI: 1.20-15.43), respectively, compared to those who reported no previous weight loss. No other statistically significant associations were found.

Conclusion: Previous weight loss in adolescents and young adults with obesity may be associated with a higher cognitive restraint eating behavior. Therefore, assessing weight loss history and eating behavior may be beneficial to better individualize obesity treatment.

Keywords: Eating behavior; Obesity; Self-esteem; Weight loss; Young adult.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology
  • Humans
  • Obesity* / psychology
  • Self Concept*
  • Weight Loss
  • Young Adult

Grants and funding

Author Liisa Tolvanen was supported by the Research School in Family medicine and primary care organized by Karolinska Institutet and Region Stockholm. Author Stephanie E. Bonn obtained funding from SFO-V, Karolinska Institutet. Author Ylva Trolle Lagerros was funded by Region Stockholm clinical research appointment (Grant number DNR RS 2019-1140). The funders had no role in the preparation of data or the manuscript.