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

Abstract

Purpose

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.

Methods

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.

Results

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]).

Conclusions

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.

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Correspondence to Edie M. Goldbacher.

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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.

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Litwin, R., Goldbacher, E.M., Cardaciotto, L. et al. Negative emotions and emotional eating: the mediating role of experiential avoidance. Eat Weight Disord 22, 97–104 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40519-016-0301-9

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Keywords

  • Emotional eating
  • Experiential avoidance
  • Negative emotions