Negative emotions and emotional eating: the mediating role of experiential avoidance

  • Rachel Litwin
  • Edie M. GoldbacherEmail author
  • LeeAnn Cardaciotto
  • Laura Eubanks Gambrel
Original Article



Emotional eating is a risk factor for eating pathology across the life- and weight-span. Research demonstrates that negative emotions are a precipitant of emotional eating, particularly among female college students. However, the underlying factors that explain this relationship are unclear. Experiential avoidance, a propensity toward being unwilling to remain in contact with aversive private experiences, may explain the association between negative emotions and emotional eating. The purpose of this study was to examine whether experiential avoidance would mediate the association between negative emotions and emotional eating.


A sample of 132 women (17.4 % African American, 59.8 % White) completed measures of mood, experiential avoidance and emotional eating. Bias-corrected bootstrapping mediational analyses were conducted.


Experiential avoidance mediated the relationship between negative emotions and emotional eating b = −0.21, 95 % BC CI [−0.43, −0.07]. The indirect effect through experiential avoidance accounted for 9 % of the variance, which represents a medium effect (k 2 = 0.09, 95 % BC CI [0.03, 0.18]).


Results suggest that experiential avoidance is important for understanding the relationship between negative emotions and emotional eating and may inform potential strategies for prevention and treatment.


Emotional eating Experiential avoidance Negative emotions 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rachel Litwin
    • 1
    • 2
  • Edie M. Goldbacher
    • 1
    Email author
  • LeeAnn Cardaciotto
    • 1
  • Laura Eubanks Gambrel
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyLa Salle UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.CBT Westport, LLCWestportUSA
  3. 3.Department of Human Development and Psychological CounselingAppalachian State UniversityBooneUSA

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