Differential effects of intuitive and disordered eating on physical and psychological outcomes for women with young children

Megan Lee, Julian Madsen, Susan Williams, Matthew Browne, Karena J. Burke

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5 Citations (Scopus)
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Pressure to lose weight can increase the risk of developing disordered eating behaviours, negative body image and depressive symptomatology. Eating intuitively may counteract these negative outcomes. This research examined the unique relationship between intuitive eating and disordered eating on body mass index (BMI), body image and depressive symptoms for women of young children.

A survey of women with a child aged between six and 48 months, included the Intuitive Eating Scale, Eating Attitudes Test-26, Body Shape Questionnaire and Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. Multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) was conducted as an omnibus test to estimate the effect of intuitive and disordered eating on BMI, negative body image and depressive symptoms.

Of the 419 sample (M age = 32.06), 32% were classified with disordered and 32% with intuitive eating. MANOVA and regression analysis found disordered eating positively associated with depressive symptoms, (β = 0.303) and negative body image (β = 0.318). Intuitive eating was associated with lower depressive symptoms (β =  − 0.183) and negative body image (β =  − 0.615). Disordered eating (β =  − 0.194) and intuitive eating (β =  − 0.586) both contributed to lower BMI, with the association stronger for intuitive eating.


The early parenting period involves a high risk for developing disordered eating behaviours. Eating patterns are modifiable factors, illustrating the potential for positive and preventive health outcomes through adopting intuitive eating behaviours. There is an opportunity for healthcare professionals to promote physical and psychological health including for women in the early parenting period.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)407-414
Number of pages8
JournalMaternal and Child Health Journal
Issue number2
Early online date16 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022


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