Emotional Eating

  • Michael Macht
  • Gwenda Simons


Emotional eating theory states that negative emotions can induce eating, because eating has the capacity to reduce their intensity. This chapter summarizes the relevant research findings. It is demonstrated that emotional eating is fairly common, but that individuals differ considerably in the quanty of food they consume in order to improve their mood. The causes of these differences are unknown and there is also no clear evidence on the origin of this kind of eating. Theories point to links between affect and food in early childhood, but cultural influences later in life and certain biological factors (e.g., taste sensitivity) may also play a role. A little more is known about the underlying mechanisms. During ingestion, food can elicit strong hedonic responses that improve emotional state, and after ingestion, nutrients may affect neurochemical and endocrine systems linked to emotions. The instigation of these psychological (hedonic) and physiological (neurochemical) mechanisms may depend on the degree of emotional eating. Hedonic responses presumably occur in most instances of emotional eating, but for neurochemical and neuroendocrine effects to come into play, a certain amount of energy-rich food is needed.


Emotion Regulation Negative Emotion Eating Disorder Bulimia Nervosa Emotion Regulation Strategy 
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Copyright information

© Springer New York 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Psychotherapy and Medical PsychologyUniversity of WürzburgWürzburgGermany
  2. 2.Department of Experimental PsychologyUniversity of OxfordEnglandUK
  3. 3.OxfordUK

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