Moderation of distress-induced eating by emotional eating scores

Tatjana van Strien, C Peter Herman, Doeschka J Anschutz, Rutger C M E Engels, Carolina de Weerth

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Earlier studies assessing the possible moderator effect of self-reported emotional eating on the relation between stress and actual food intake have obtained mixed results. The null findings in some of these studies might be attributed to misclassification of participants due to the use of the median splits and/or insufficient participants with extreme scores. The objective of the two current studies was to test whether it is possible to predict distress-induced eating with a self-report emotional eating scale by using extreme scorers. In study 1 (n=45) we used a between-subjects design and emotional eating was assessed after food intake during a negative or a neutral mood (induced by a movie). In study 2 (n=47) we used a within-subjects design and emotional eating was assessed well before food intake, which occurred after a control or stress task (Trier Social Stress Task). The main outcome measure was actual food intake. In both studies self-reported emotional eating significantly moderated the relation between distress and food intake. As expected, low emotional eaters ate less during the sad movie or after stress than during the neutral movie or after the control task, whereas high emotional eaters ate more. No such moderator effect was found for emotional eating in the entire sample (n=124) of study 1 using the median-split procedure or the full range of emotional eating scores. We conclude that it is possible to predict distress-induced food intake using self-reports of emotional eating provided that the participants have sufficiently extreme emotional eating scores.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)277-84
Number of pages8
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2012


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affect
  • Eating
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Stress, Psychological
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult
  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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