Fear of weight gain (FOWG) is increasingly implicated in the maintenance of binge-spectrum eating disorders (EDs; e.g., bulimia nervosa [BN], binge-eating disorder [BED]) through the pathway of increased dietary restriction. However, particularly in binge-spectrum EDs, research is nascent and based on retrospective self-report. To improve treatment outcomes, it is critical to better understand the momentary relations between FOWG and dietary restriction.
Sixty-seven adults with binge spectrum EDs completed a 7-14-day ecological momentary assessment protocol that included items regarding FOWG, ED behaviors, and types of dietary restriction (e.g., attempted restraint vs. actual restriction) several times per day. Multilevel models were used to evaluate reciprocal associations between FOWG and dietary restriction, and to evaluate the indirect of effects of dietary restriction on the relation between FOWG and binge eating.
While main effects were not statistically significant, ED presentation significantly moderated the association between increases in FOWG at time1 and both attempted and actual avoidance of enjoyable foods at time2 such that those with BN-spectrum EDs were more likely to avoid enjoyable foods following increased FOWG compared to those with BED-spectrum EDs. Engagement in restriction at time1 was not associated with decreased FOWG at time2.
Prospective associations between FOWG and restriction suggest that individuals with BN may be more likely to restrict their eating following increased FOWG. These findings suggest FOWG may be an important target for future treatments.