Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp 135–149 | Cite as

Emotional reactivity, emotional eating, and obesity: A naturalistic study

  • Michael R. Lowe
  • Edwin B. FisherJr.


Laboratory studies indicate that obese individuals are more emotionally reactive and more likely to overeat when distressed than are those of normal weight. These studies were conducted under highly artificial conditions, however, and their generality outside of the laboratory remains largely untested. The present study compared the emotional reactivity and emotional eating of normal and overweight female college students in the natural environment. Subjects self-monitored their food intake and mood just prior to each instance of eating for 12 consecutive days. The results indicated that obese subjects were more emotionally reactive and more likely to engage in emotional eating than normals, but these findings applied only to snacks, not to meals. Correlational analyses indicated that emotional distress associated with snacks and emotional eating associated with both snacks and meals were related to subjects' percentage overweight. The two groups did not differ on any measure of positive emotions or consumption following positive emotions, nor were these two variables related to percentage overweight. The theoretical and clinical implications of these findings are briefly discussed.

Key words

obesity overeating emotional reactivity emotional eating 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael R. Lowe
    • 1
  • Edwin B. FisherJr.
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyRutgers UniversityCamden
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyWashington UniversitySt. Louis

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