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Abstract

Emotional eating is the tendency to overeat in response to negative emotions and has shown to be associated with weight outcomes, both in respect to weight gain over time and difficulties with weight loss and weight loss maintenance. It is thus important to develop treatments to improve weight loss outcomes in emotional eaters. The purpose of this review is to explore adults’ relationship between emotional eating and weight by: (1) describing self-report measures used to assess emotional eating such as the Dutch Eating Behavior Questionnaire (DEBQ), the Three Factor Eating Questionnaire (TFEQ), and the Emotional Eating Scale (EES), (2) exploring the relationship between emotional eating and weight outcomes, namely examining weight gain in longitudinal studies and difficulties with weight loss and weight loss maintenance in intervention studies, and (3) reviewing current interventions that target emotional eating, using techniques such as mindfulness, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). A better understanding of adults’ emotional eating and its impact on weight is important to develop interventions that effectively target weight loss struggles unique to emotional eaters and improve weight outcomes for this population.
Emotional Eating and Weight in Adults: a Review
Mallory Frayn
1
&Bärbel Knäuper
1
Published online: 15 March 2017
#Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017
Abstract Emotional eating is the tendency to overeat in re-
sponse to negative emotions and has shown to be associated
with weight outcomes, both in respect to weight gain over time
and difficulties with weight loss and weight loss maintenance. It
is thus important to develop treatments to improve weight loss
outcomes in emotional eaters. The purpose of this review is to
explore adultsrelationship between emotional eating and
weight by: (1) describing self-report measures used to assess
emotional eating such as the Dutch Eating Behavior
Questionnaire (DEBQ), the Three Factor Eating Questionnaire
(TFEQ), and the Emotional Eating Scale (EES), (2) exploring
the relationship between emotional eating and weight outcomes,
namely examining weight gain in longitudinal studies and diffi-
culties with weight loss and weight loss maintenance in inter-
vention studies, and (3) reviewing current interventions that tar-
get emotional eating, using techniques such as mindfulness,
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Cognitive
Behavior Therapy (CBT), and Dialectical Behavior Therapy
(DBT). A better understanding of adultsemotional eating and
its impact on weight is important to develop interventions that
effectively target weight loss struggles unique to emotional
eaters and improve weight outcomes for this population.
Keywords Emotional eating .Wei g ht .Weight loss .Review
Introduction
Emotional eating is defined as the Btendency to overeat in
response to negative emotions, such as anxiety or irritability^
(van Strien et al. 2007, p. 106). It is a highly prevalent concern
for those who struggle with their weight; it is suggested that
60% or more of individuals who are overweight or obese are
also emotional eaters (Ganley 1989). Emotional eaters are
particularly likely to consume foods high in fat, sugar, and
calories in response to negative emotions (Elfhag and
Rossner 2005). These eating habits in combination with in-
creased body weight place emotional eaters at higher risk for
developing diabetes and heart disease (e.g., Melanson 2007;
Wang et al. 2010). This population also struggles with weight
loss; emotional eaters are half as likely as non-emotional
eaters to achieve the 10% weight loss goal of standard behav-
ioral weight loss treatment (López-Guimerà et al. 2014).
Emotional eating is important to study because of its negative
effects on weight and overall health. Thus far very few inter-
ventions have incorporated the treatment of emotional eating
into weight loss interventions.
The purpose of this paper is to review the relationship be-
tween emotional eating and body weight in adults and to ex-
plore the current treatment options used to address these con-
cerns. To our knowledge, no such review exists. Other reviews
have outlined theoretical perspectives on emotional eating
(e.g., Canetti et al. 2002), have examined the prevalence of
emotional eating in a variety of samples (e.g., Gibson 2012),
and have reviewed studies using a certain treatment approach,
namely mindfulness interventions, for emotional eating (e.g.,
Katterman et al. 2014;OReilly et al. 2014). However, none of
these reviews have attempted to explicate the relationship be-
tween emotional eating and weight, nor have they thoroughly
evaluated treatment options for overweight or obese emotion-
al eaters. This review seeks to fill these gaps in the existing
*Mallory Frayn
mallory.frayn@mail.mcgill.ca
Bärbel Knäuper
barbel.knauper@mcgill.ca
1
Department of Psychology, McGill University, Stewart Biology
Building, 1205 Dr. Penfield Avenue, Montreal, Quebec H3A 1B1,
Canada
Curr Psychol (2018) 37:924933
DOI 10.1007/s12144-017-9577-9
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
... In Tuncer and Duman's study (2020), 49% of participants with mental disorders displayed emotional eating behaviors. Some studies in the literature have quantitatively investigated emotional eating behaviors, while others conducted a qualitative in-depth investigation (Bennett et al., 2013;Frayn & Knäuper, 2018). One mixed-method study investigates the eating behaviors of patients with schizophrenia (Frayn & Knäuper, 2018). ...
... Some studies in the literature have quantitatively investigated emotional eating behaviors, while others conducted a qualitative in-depth investigation (Bennett et al., 2013;Frayn & Knäuper, 2018). One mixed-method study investigates the eating behaviors of patients with schizophrenia (Frayn & Knäuper, 2018). However, no studies could be identified in the literature that investigates the emotional eating behaviors of individuals with chronic mental disorders living in the community. ...
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