Identification as overweight by medical professionals: Relation to eating disorder diagnosis and risk

Andrea E. Kass*, Annie Z. Wang, Rachel P. Kolko, Jodi C. Holland, Myra Altman, Mickey Trockel, C. Barr Taylor, Denise E. Wilfley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Purpose: Discussions about weight between medical professionals and young adults may increase risk of eating disorders (EDs). Clarifying the relation between screening for overweight and ED risk is needed. Methods: 548 college-age women were classified as at-risk (n= 441) or with an ED (n= 107), and were assessed for disordered eating attitudes, behaviors, and relevant history, including, "Has a doctor, nurse, or other medical professional ever told you that you were overweight?" Regression analyses were used to evaluate the relations between being identified as overweight and current disordered eating behaviors, attitudes, and ED diagnosis, without and with covariates (history of weight-related teasing, history of an ED, family history of being identified as overweight, and current body mass index). Results: 146 (26.6%) women reported being previously identified as overweight by a medical professional. There was no relation between being previously identified as overweight and having an ED. Those identified as overweight were more likely to have weight/shape concerns above a high-risk cutoff, but showed no difference in dietary restraint, binge eating, purging behaviors, or excessive exercise compared to those not identified. Conclusions: Being previously identified as overweight by a medical professional was associated with increased weight/shape concerns but not with current disordered eating behaviors or ED status. Minimizing the potential negative effects of overweight screening on weight and shape concerns by providing patients with strategies to increase healthy lifestyle behaviors and long-term support for healthy weight loss goals may have a positive impact on reducing the public health problem of overweight and obesity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)62-68
Number of pages7
JournalEating Behaviors
StatePublished - Apr 1 2015


  • Eating disorder risk
  • Intervention
  • Obesity
  • Overweight
  • Screening

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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