Does measuring body weight impact subsequent response to eating behavior questions?
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OBJECTIVES: If being weighed impacts perceptions of eating behavior, it is important that the order of questionnaires and weighing be considered in research and practice. A quasi-experimental study was performed to examine whether being weighed immediately prior to completing a questionnaire affects responses to eating behavior questions. It was hypothesized that being weighed would serve as a priming stimulus and increase measures of dietary restraint, disinhibition, and hunger. METHODS: Trained researchers collected a sample of volunteers (n = 355) in 8 locations in the United States on two Saturdays in the summer of 2011. Half of the participants were weighed immediately prior to completing the Three Factor Eating Questionnaire (TFEQ), with the remaining half weighed immediately after TFEQ completion. RESULTS: A priori hypotheses were not supported despite replicating known relationships between weight, dietary restraint and disinhibition. Results indicated that being weighed first produced a difference in differences on disinhibition scores between low restraint score (95% CI = 4.65-6.02) and high restraint score (95% CI = 6.11-7.57) compared to being weighed after questionnaire completion (p = 0.003). However, this relationship was not significant when modeling restraint as a continuous variable, questioning the use of dichotomization. CONCLUSIONS: Being weighed is unlikely to be a strong enough prime to significantly change scores on eating behavior questionnaires for everyone, but may allow differences in restraint status to become more evident. Researchers assessing dietary restraint should be wary of the possibility of producing different results when treating restraint as continuous or dichotomous, which could lead to different interpretations.
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