Disordered eating behavior, weight, and physical activity. Young men and overweight working-age adults

Thesis event information

Date and time of the thesis defence

Place of the thesis defence

Wegelius-sali, ODL Hyvinvointikeskus, Albertinkatu 16, Oulu.

Topic of the dissertation

Disordered eating behavior, weight, and physical activity. Young men and overweight working-age adults

Doctoral candidate

Master of Science Marjukka Nurkkala

Faculty and unit

University of Oulu Graduate School, Faculty of Medicine, Center for Life Course Health Research

Subject of study

Public Health


Professor Anna Keski-Rahkonen, University of Helsinki


Professor Raija Korpelainen, University of Oulu; Oulu Deaconess Institute Foundation

Add event to calendar

Disordered eating, weight and physical activity

Disordered eating behavior (DEB) is associated with psychological distress. It increases the risk of weight gain and complicates weight loss and maintenance. Disordered eating behavior may be under-recognized in young men and in treating obesity. This study aimed to increase knowledge of DEB and its associations with weight and physical activity in young men. Moreover, it aimed to clarify the effects of intensive lifestyle intervention on eating behavior traits and weight in adults.

Population-based data on young men (n = 2,491) was collected from the Finnish Defence Forces’ call-ups in 2010, 2011, and 2013 in the Oulu area, Finland. Behaviors related to disordered eating, weight, and exercise were investigated using a questionnaire. Anthropometric and physical fitness measurements and medical examinations were performed. A second dataset was obtained from 120 working-age adults (BMI > 30) who participated in intensive lifestyle intervention. Questions related to eating behavior traits were asked at the beginning of the study and thrice during a three-year intervention. Heights and weights were measured.

Disordered eating behavior occurred in 11.1% of young men and was more common among overweight men. General symptoms of DEB and compulsive desire to lose weight occurred more frequently in overweight young men, while bulimic behavior occurred with all weights. Four DEB profiles were recognized: compulsive thinking of dieting, eating in secret, being concerned about eating control, and mild disordered eating. Disordered eating behavior was associated with less physical activity, higher sedentary leisure time, and especially body-related motives to exercise. Among working-aged people, binge eating occurred in one in four women but was rare in men. During the intensive lifestyle intervention, impulsive eating decreased and emotional eating was lower at the end of the intervention among those who lost and maintained at least 5% of their weight. Cognitive restraint of eating was not associated with maintaining weight loss.

These results indicate that DEB is common among overweight young men. It is also associated with other harmful health behaviors in young men and should be considered harmful, especially in treating obesity. New methods are required to recognize DEB in men.

Remote access to the public defence of the doctoral thesis (Teams)
Last updated: 1.3.2023