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Attachment anxiety, disinhibited eating, and body mass index in adulthood


Several studies report a relationship between body mass index (BMI) and disinhibited eating (a failure to restrict intake and to overeat). However, the aetiology of disinhibited eating has received scant attention. In this study, we consider a role for ‘attachment orientation’, a trait that reflects the quality of bonding in early life and remains stable throughout adulthood. Participants (N=200, females=135, BMI range from 17.4 to 41.1 kg m−2) completed measures of disinhibition and attachment orientation. ‘Attachment anxiety’ was a good predictor of disinhibited eating (P<0.001). Furthermore, mediation analysis confirmed that it is through this relationship that attachment anxiety also predicts BMI (P=0.02). These findings are consistent with other studies, showing an association between attachment orientation and other disinhibited behaviours, including alcohol and substance abuse. Our interpretation is that disinhibited eaters engage in external affect regulation. In doing so, they seek to mitigate the anxiety associated with poor interpersonal attachments.

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Correspondence to L L Wilkinson.

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Wilkinson, L., Rowe, A., Bishop, R. et al. Attachment anxiety, disinhibited eating, and body mass index in adulthood. Int J Obes 34, 1442–1445 (2010).

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  • attachment anxiety
  • attachment avoidance
  • BMI
  • disinhibited eating
  • mediation analysis

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