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Eat Behav. 2011 Jan;12(1):9-14. doi: 10.1016/j.eatbeh.2010.08.009. Epub 2010 Sep 17.

Response style and vulnerability to anger-induced eating in obese adults.

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  • 1Department of Preventive Medicine, Rush University Medical Center, 1700 W Van Buren Street, Chicago, IL 60612, USA.


Emotional eating appears to contribute to weight gain, but the characteristics that make one vulnerable to emotional eating remain unclear. The present study examined whether two negative affect response styles, rumination and distraction, influenced palatable food intake following an anger mood induction in normal weight and obese adults. We hypothesized that higher rumination and lower distraction would be associated with greater vulnerability to anger-induced eating, particularly among obese individuals. Sixty-one participants (74% female, mean age=34.6) underwent neutral and anger mood inductions in counterbalanced order. Directly following each mood induction, participants were provided with 2400 kcal of highly palatable snack foods in the context of a laboratory taste test. Results revealed that distraction influenced energy intake following the mood induction for obese but not normal weight individuals. Obese participants who reported greater use of distraction strategies consumed fewer calories than those reporting less use of distraction strategies. These findings were independent of subjective hunger levels, individual differences in mood responses and trait anger, and other factors. Rumination did not account for changes in energy intake among obese or normal weight participants. Among obese individuals, the tendency to utilize fewer negative affect distraction strategies appears to be associated with vulnerability to eating in response to anger. Future research should determine whether coping skills training can reduce emotional eating tendencies.

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