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Overeating, Indulgence Tied to Positive Emotions

by Sandy Todd Webster on Aug 22, 2013

Food for Thought

Which is more likely to send you head first into a big bowl of mac and cheese or your favorite dessert (or both?): a really good day or a really bad day?

Contrary to the idea that negative emotions drive people to overeat or to indulge their cravings, a recent three- part study that appeared in Appetite (2013; 68, 1–7) has shown, surprisingly, that positive emotions can influence eating indulgences as much as—or more than—negative emotions.

The abstract indicates that two labo- ratory studies were conducted in which positive emotions or no emotions were induced (Study 1) or, in addition, nega- tive emotions were induced (Study 2), after which unhealthy food intake was assessed by bogus taste tests. Study 3 was a 7-day diary study, in which food intake was assessed after subjects reg- istered their snack intake along with the emotions accompanying each snacking episode.

Studies 1 and 2 showed that positive emotions evoked more caloric intake than the control condition (no emotions). Dietary restraint did not moderate this effect. The second study additionally showed that positive emotions evoked as much caloric intake as did negative emotions. Study 3 showed that snack intake in daily life resulted from positive emotions more frequently than from neg- ative emotions.

The authors concluded, “Positive emotions serve as an important but under-investigated trigger for unhealthy food intake that deserves further scru- tiny. Future research should . . . inves- tigate whether food intake results from emotional arousal in general, or from emotional valence [degree of attraction or aversion] in particular.”

IDEA Fitness Journal, Volume 10, Issue 9

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About the Author

Sandy Todd Webster

Sandy Todd Webster IDEA Author/Presenter

Sandy Todd Webster is Editor in Chief of IDEA's publications, including the award-winning IDEA FITNESS JOURNAL, the health and fitness industry's leading resource for fitness and wellness professionals worldwide. Sandy joined IDEA in 2001 as executive editor of IDEA PERSONAL TRAINER and IDEA FITNESS MANAGER magazines and was promoted to lead the editorial team in 2003. More than 20 years in magazine publishing, marketing communications and creative services have shaped her straightforward approach to multi-channel communication. Early experience in Los Angeles as a sports writer/reporter, and then enriching years as a managing editor in allied health care publishing have pulled her across a spectrum of stimulating subject matter. Fitness, health and nutrition reside at the perfect center of this content continuum, she feels. A Chicago native, Sandy grew up fully engaged in various competitive sports. Her drive and dedication as an athlete translate to a disciplined work ethic and unwavering appro