Objective: The primary aim of this study was to investigate eating disorder (ED) pathology in those living with food insecurity. A secondary aim was to investigate whether any-reason dietary restraint, weight self-stigma, and worry increased as level of food insecurity increased.
Method: Participants (N = 503) seeking food from food pantries completed questionnaires assessing level of food insecurity, demographics, ED pathology, dietary restraint, weight self-stigma, and worry.
Results: Consistent with hypotheses, participants with the highest level of food insecurity (i.e., adults who reported having hungry children in their household) also endorsed significantly higher levels of binge eating, overall ED pathology, any-reason dietary restraint, weight self-stigma, and worry compared to participants with lower levels of food insecurity. Contrary to hypotheses, compensatory behaviors also increased as level of food insecurity worsened. Overall, 17% of those in the child hunger food insecurity group reported clinically significant ED pathology.
Discussion: This is the first study to assess the full spectrum of ED pathology in a low income, marginalized population with food insecurity. Given that food insecurity is a global concern, results from this study suggest that greater attention to the association between ED pathology and food insecurity is warranted by researchers around the world.