Emotions and eating. Self-reported and experimentally induced changes in food intake under stress

D J Wallis, M M Hetherington
Appetite 2009, 52 (2): 355-62
Two studies investigated the stress-eating relationship. The first examined self-reported changes in intake of snack foods, whilst the second investigated stress-induced overconsumption in a laboratory setting comparing high (HF) and low-fat (LF) snacks. Eighty-nine females completed the Dutch Eating Behaviour Questionnaire (DEBQ) [Van Strien, T., Fritjers, J. E. R., Bergers, G. P. A., & Defares, P. B. (1986). Dutch Eating Behaviour Questionnaire for assessment of restrained, emotional and external eating behaviour. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 5, 295-315] and a self-report measure designed to evaluate changes in eating in response to stress. Increased intake of HF snacks was associated with high emotional eating but not with restraint. A laboratory-based experiment compared intake of HF and LF snacks after ego-threatening and neutral Stroop colour-naming tasks. Intake was suppressed by 31.8% in restrained compared to unrestrained eaters across tasks. Restrained eaters consumed significantly less after ego-threat than after the neutral manipulation, but this was associated only with intake of the LF snack. Restrained eaters' intake of dried fruit was suppressed by 33.2% after ego-threat relative to the neutral task, despite a significant increase in hunger for this group following ego-threat. These results suggest that the type and variety of foods offered influences the link between stress and eating in laboratory settings. Further research should aim to replicate and extend these findings, with a view to informing potential interventions for stress-related eating.

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