What is the Eating Behavior Inventory (EBI)?

The Eating Behavior Inventory (EBI) is a validated questionnaire used by obesity researchers to measure the adoption of specific behaviours linked with weight-loss success.
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How it Works
The EBI was developed in 1979 and has been used in over 20 research studies that examine weight management behaviors. The EBI is made up of 26 items; each rated on a 5-point scale from never or hardly ever to always or almost always. The EBI looks at positive eating behaviors (e.g., ‘I carefully watch the quantity of food which I eat.’) as well as negative ones (e.g., ‘I eat quickly compared with most other people’). Negative items on the EBI are reversed coded so that higher scores indicate a greater adoption of behaviors linked with successful weight loss.1

Strong Clinical Evidence
There is strong body of evidence to support the EBI as a valid, consistent tool for assessing weight management behaviors. Researchers have also demonstrated that the EBI is sensitive to the effects of weight-loss interventions. In other words, EBI scores increase significantly from pre to post intervention when undergoing a weight-loss program. The degree or magnitude that an EBI score changes has also been shown to be important. In fact, studies have shown the greater the change in EBI score, the greater the weight loss, suggesting that the more behavior change that is made, the more weight that is likely to be lost.

The EBI is based on items that reflect a composite of different weight management behaviors. In more recent years, research has been done to examine specific EBI items to identify which behaviors may have the most influence on weight loss. Surprisingly, these findings have been rather inconsistent, with no evidence suggesting that an item or subset of items can be used as a substitute for the behaviors the EBI represents. That being said, the studies that have been done in this area have all found the EBI item which addresses self-monitoring of food intake to be strongly linked with weight loss, which is consistent with other research in the area of self-monitoring and weight.

The Weight Watchers Approach:
Behavior change is one of the four pillars of the Weight Watchers approach and critical for long-term weight loss. In a randomized clinical trial where individuals followed the PointsPlus program, researchers administered the Eating Behavior Inventory. After 12 weeks, there was a significant improvement in the EBI score, as well as a significant link between the degree to which EBI score changed (i.e., the degree to which behaviors were adopted) and the amount of weight that was lost.2 These results are consistent with what’s been found in other studies involving EBI and demonstrate the positive impact the Weight Watchers approach has in promoting behaviors linked with successful weight loss.

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1 O'Neil PM, Rieder S. Utility and validity of the eating behavior inventory in clinical obesity research: a review of the literature. Obes Rev. 2005 Aug; 6(3):209-16.

2 O’Neil PM, Boeka A, Cronan G, Miller-Kovach K. Changes in weight-related behaviors and hedonic hunger with participation in a 12-week weight-loss trial using a commercial format. Annals of Behavioral Medicine 2010; 39(Suppl): S211.

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