The process by which emotions affect eating behavior emerges as one of the central unresolved questions in the field of emotional eating. The present studies address the hypothesis that the regulation strategies people use to deal with these emotions are responsible for increased eating.
Negative emotions were induced and intake of comfort food and non-comfort food was measured by means of taste tests. Emotion induction was preceded by measuring individual differences in emotion regulation strategies (Study 1) or by instructions to regulate emotions in either an adaptive (reappraisal) or maladaptive (suppression) manner (Study 2). Study 3 also entailed a control condition without any regulation instructions.
Relative to reappraisal and spontaneous expression, suppression led to increased food intake, but only of the comfort foods. Emotions themselves were not responsible for this effect. These findings provide new evidence that the way in which emotions are regulated affects eating behavior.
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