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Weight Stigma May Predict Binge Eating During the Pandemic

Young adults with previous weight stigma at greater risk for maladaptive eating, regardless of weight

FRIDAY, Sept. 11, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Young adults who previously experienced weight stigma may have increased vulnerability to distress and maladaptive eating during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study published online Sept. 10 in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine.

Rebecca M. Puhl, Ph.D., from the University of Connecticut in Storrs, and colleagues evaluated prepandemic experiences of weight stigma and their relationship to eating behaviors, psychological distress, and physical activity during the COVID-19 pandemic among 584 emerging adults (64 percent female; mean age, 24.6 years) participating in the longitudinal COVID-19 Eating and Activity over Time (C-EAT) study (cohort members from the EAT study conducted from 2010 to 2018).

The researchers found that prepandemic experiences of weight stigma predicted higher levels of depressive symptoms, stress, eating as a coping strategy, and an increased likelihood of binge eating (odds ratio, 2.88). There were no associations seen between prepandemic experiences of weight stigma and physical activity. The magnitude of longitudinal associations were lessened when accounting for prior levels of the outcome variables in adjusted analysis that also accounted for demographic characteristics and body mass index.

“These increased health risks, particularly for binge eating, indicate a need for supportive and educational resources to help lessen the negative impact of stigma on eating behaviors,” a coauthor said in a statement.

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