Abstract Background The reasons for mis-reporting food consumption warrant investigation. Objective To document intention to mis-report food consumption and its associations with psychological measures in women. Design A total of 184 female volunteers aged 18–65 years, comprising 50 seeking help in primary care to lose weight with a body mass index (BMI) ≥30 kg m−2 (obese-clinical group) and 134 nurses (nonclinical groups) (BMI <25 kg m−2, n = 52; BMI 25–29.9 kg m−2, n = 45; BMI ≥30 kg m−2, n = 37) were studied. A questionnaire was administered containing three psychological tests (self-esteem, psychological well-being and Stunkard's three-factor eating questionnaire) and new items to address food intake mis-reporting. Results Overall, 68% of participants declared an inclination to mis-report (64% nonclinical, 78% clinical). Inclination to under-report was 29, 33 and 51% in the three nonclinical groups; and 46% among the obese clinical patients. Among the same groups, inclination to over-report were 39, 29, 11 and 32%. After adjusting for social deprivation and BMI, women inclined to mis-report had higher hunger (P = 0.008) and disinhibition (P = 0.005) scores than those intending to report accurately. These variables were associated with current dieting, frequency of dieting, self-reported bingeing and dissatisfaction with body weight. Conclusions These findings indicate that intentional under-reporting and over-reporting of food consumption are common in women of all BMI categories and are associated with eating behaviour. Current dieting, frequency of dieting in the past, self-reported bingeing and dissatisfaction with body weight seem to mediate this relationship.