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Thinking Fat and Feeling Blue: Eating Behaviors, Ruminative Coping, and Depressive Symptoms in College Women

Abstract

Restrained and binge eating are related to depressive symptomatology in women; we examined the role of ruminative coping in this association. Sample participants (N = 329) were female college students in the Midwestern U.S. who completed a health behaviors survey. Multiple regression models examining the pathway between eating (restrained and bingeing, respectively) and depressive symptoms were tested; ruminative coping was examined as the mediator in all models. Models in which dysregulated eating predicted depressive symptoms explained more variance than those testing the reverse pathway. Ruminative coping fully mediated the association between restrained eating and depressive symptoms and partially mediated the association between binge eating and depressive symptoms. Findings suggest ruminative coping is a mechanism linking disordered eating and depressive symptoms.

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Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank Erica Burk, Lindsay Cramer, Zeeba Daruwalla, Hope Fisher, Meghan Fraley, Oona Hanawalt, Gena Jorgensen, Nidal Karim, Dawn Kepler, Betsy Kerrison, Anna Levin, Jenna Schmeichel, Andrea Stokes and Rachel White for their work on data management at various phases of the project. We would also like to thank NiCole Buchanan, Rebecca Campbell, Kelly Klump, Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, Ann Marie Ryan, Isis Settles, Cris Sullivan and Rebecca Osborn for their feedback on earlier drafts of this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Zaje A. T. Harrell.

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Harrell, Z.A.T., Jackson, B. Thinking Fat and Feeling Blue: Eating Behaviors, Ruminative Coping, and Depressive Symptoms in College Women. Sex Roles 58, 658–665 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-007-9388-9

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-007-9388-9

Keywords

  • Binge eating
  • Restrained eating
  • Ruminative coping
  • Depressive symptoms
  • College women