Examining Shared Pathways for Eating Disorders and Obesity in a Community Sample of Adolescents: The REAL Study Academic Article uri icon

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  • Several psychosocial models have been proposed to explain the etiology of eating disorders (EDs) and obesity separately despite research suggesting they should be conceptualized within a shared theoretical framework. The objective of the current study was to test an integrated comprehensive model consisting of a host of common risk and protective factors (socio-environmental, psychological, and behavioral) expected to explain both eating and weight disorders simultaneously in a large school-based sample of adolescents. Data were collected from 3,043 youth (60% female, 14.00 ± 1.61) from 41 schools in the Ottawa region, Canada. Working with interested school staff, validated self-report scales in the form of a questionnaire booklet were administered to participating students to assess several understood risk and protective factors common to both eating disorders and obesity. Anthropometric measurements of weight and height were taken at the end of the questionnaire administration period by trained research staff. Structural equation modeling with cross-validation was used to test the hypothesized model. Findings demonstrated that dysregulated eating was associated with both eating disorder and weight status with diet culture and emotion dysregulation directly associated with some of these disordered eating patterns. It equally pointed to how lifestyle made up of high sedentary behaviors, low vigorous exercise and varied eating patterns contributed to both emotion dysregulation and poor body image which subsequently affected eating issues and weight status simultaneously, signaling the complex interplay of psychosocial factors that underlie these concerns. This study provides evidence for an integrated psychosocial model consisting of socio-environmental, psychological, and behavioral factors may best explain the complex interplay of risk and protective factors influencing eating disorders and obesity. It equally highlights understanding the direct and indirect effects of some of the most salient risk factors involved in eating and weight-related concerns, including the strong effects of diet culture and stressors such as weight-based teasing, providing interventionalists evidence of important risk factors to consider targeting in eating disorder and weight-based prevention efforts.


  • Obeid, Nicole
  • Flament, Martine F
  • Buchholz, Andrea
  • Henderson, Katherine A
  • Schubert, Nick
  • Tasca, Giorgio
  • Thai, Helen
  • Goldfield, Gary

publication date

  • 2022