Feeding Your Feelings the Wrong Way

Eating disorders and unhealthy eating behaviors worsen mood after eating

(RxWiki News) Self-image affects a long line of behaviors for women when it comes to eating and diet. And unhealthy eating habits can be difficult to break.

Women who have unhealthy eating behaviors and are concerned about their diet and self-image experienced a worsening of moods after eating, according to new research presented at a conference.

Knowing how eating behaviors influence women's moods can help in the design of stronger health behavior interventions for diabetes, obesity and eating disorders, researchers said.

"Love your body: eat well."

Researchers led by Kristin Heron, PhD, research associate at the Survey Research Center at Pennsylvania State University, looked into how mood and eating behaviors were linked among women who potentially have an eating disorder.

The study included 127 women who averaged about 20 years of age. They had a normal body mass index (BMI), a measurement of height and weight together, of 26 on average.

Participants completed five Ecological Momentary Assessment reports every day for a week. The assessment is a way of gathering information from individuals during a particular moment in their "real world" environments.

Reports covered eating behaviors as related to negative and positive affect scores. Negative and positive affect refers to a person's feelings or emotions.

Eating behaviors that researchers looked for included binge eating, losing control over eating, restricting food intake and skipping out on meals and snacks.

Researchers found that women were in a more negative mood (and negative affect) after binge eating, restricting food intake and losing control over eating. Positive moods and affect were not linked to any eating behaviors.

They also found that women's moods were consequences of their eating behavior. Further, mood prior to eating was not linked with any other disordered eating behaviors. 

"What we know about mood and eating behaviors comes primarily from studies with eating disorder patients or from laboratory studies," Dr. Heron said in a press release.

"We were interested in studying women in their everyday lives to see whether mood changed before or after they engaged in unhealthy eating and weight control behaviors."

Being in a negative mood before eating did not affect whether women engaged in unhealthy eating behavior.

"These findings elucidate processes in daily life that may influence the development and maintenance of unhealthy eating and weight control behaviors, which in turn can inform health behavior interventions (e.g., for obesity, diabetes, eating disorders, etc.)," researchers wrote in their report.

The study, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, was presented in March 15 at the American Psychosomatic Society conference in Miami. The findings have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Review Date: 
March 26, 2013