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Appetite. 2012 Oct;59(2):570-5. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2012.07.007. Epub 2012 Jul 16.

Food as ego-protective remedy for people experiencing shame. Experimental evidence for a new perspective on weight-related shame.

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Institute of Education, National Sun Yat-sen University, 70 Lien-Hai Rd., Kaohsiung 80424, Taiwan, ROC.


The well-explored association between shame and bulimia is based on research with clinical samples, which limits its generalizability. Moreover, these correlational studies are unable to draw clear conclusions about causality. To fill this gap, we conducted two experimental studies to examine whether shame elicits a desire for food in nonclinical participants. Compared with controls, participants experiencing shame found a buffet meal more desirable and were more likely to binge eat (Experiment 1); they also ate more than controls in a comparative taste test (Experiment 2). Our findings suggest that shame elicits the desire to obtain food to protect the devalued self but may lead to overeating and the risk of losing control over one's weight. We provide the first experimental evidence showing the link between shame and desire for food and offer a new perspective on the causal relationship between shame and binge eating.

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