PurposeDieting is a well-established risk factor for binge eating, yet the majority of dieters do not develop binge eating problems. The purpose of the current study was to examine psychosocial factors involved in the relation between dieting and binge eating over a 10-year follow-up period.
MethodsA population-based sample (n = 1,827) completed surveys assessing eating habits, psychological functioning, and weight status at 5-year intervals spanning early/middle adolescence (time 1), late adolescence/early young adulthood (time 2), and early/middle young adulthood (time 3). Dieting, along with depression symptoms, self-esteem, and teasing experiences at time 1 and time 2, was used to predict new onset binge eating at time 2 and time 3, respectively. Interactions between dieting status and varying degrees of these psychosocial factors in relation to binge eating onset were also tested.
ResultsDieters were two to three times more likely than nondieters to develop binge eating problems over 5-year follow-ups. At most time points, depression symptoms and self-esteem predicted binge eating onset beyond the effects of dieting alone. Detrimental levels of these factors among dieters (relative to nondieters) increased the likelihood of binge eating onset only during the later follow-up period.
ConclusionsDepression and self-esteem appear to be particularly salient factors involved in the relation between dieting and binge eating onset among adolescents and young adults. Early identification of these factors should be a priority to prevent the development of binge eating problems among already at-risk individuals.