Weight-Related Eating Behavior Questionnaires: Applying Theory to Measurement

  • Susan M. Schembre


Obesity research conducted to date has focused on identifying and educating the public on “what” and “how much” to eat. Despite our efforts, the prevalence of obesity continues to rise. Some of the more promising obesity research is focused on identifying and assessing cognitive and psychological aspects of eating behavior with the intent of understanding “how” we make food-related decisions and “why” we initiate eating episodes if not for physiological reasons. Three theories emerged over the past 50 years that have enhanced our understanding of the cognitive/psychological aspects of eating that influence the relationship between energy intake and obesity: the psychosomatic theory, the theory of externality, and the theory of restraint. These theories have served as the foundation for at least seven psychometric instruments that assess eating behavior in nonclinical, adult populations. With recent changes in the production and marketing of food in developed and developing countries, there is an increased interest among behavioral scientists and psychologists as well as neurobiologists to utilize these psychometric instruments to assess and understand patterns of eating that promote weight gain. We are now exposed to an overabundance of food-related cues encouraging the consumption low-cost, energy-dense foods. Decisions prompting energy intake in this “obesogenic” environment are believed to be guided more frequently by the desire to eat and less frequently by the physiological need for energy. Gaining a greater understanding of the behavioral and neurobiological mechanisms that influence our decision-making processes will aid in the design of more effective interventions aimed to reduce the prevalence of obesity. In this chapter, the three cognitive/psychological eating behavior theories will be reviewed, and a summarized description of the development and validation of select psychometric instruments will be provided. Recent research of the neurobiological mechanisms linking theory-based eating behavior constructs with obesity will also be presented. To conclude, guidelines for the selection of the most suitable ins?trument for research are offered.


Eating Behavior Emotional Eating Dietary Restraint Restrained Eating External Eating 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Body mass index


Dutch Eating Behavior Questionnaire


Latent Obesity Scale


Revised Three-Factor Eating Questionnaire


Rigid and Flexible Control Scale


Herman’s Restraint Scale


Three-Factor Eating Questionnaire


Weight-Related Eating Questionnaire



The author is supported by a postdoctoral fellowship on NCI grant R25CA 90956. Special thanks to Katherine Burke for her assistance.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cancer Research Center Hawaii, Prevention and Control ProgramUniversity of HawaiiHonoluluUSA

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