Emotional Eating Is Not What You Think It Is and Emotional Eating Scales Do Not Measure What You Think They Measure

Peggy Bongers*, Anita Jansen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

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Abstract

In eating research, it is common practice to group people into different eater types, such as emotional, external and restrained eaters. This categorization is generally based on scores on self-report questionnaires. However, recent studies have started to raise questions about the validity of such questionnaires. In the realm of emotional eating, a considerable number of studies, both in the lab and in naturalistic settings, fail to demonstrate increased food intake in emotional situations in self-described emotional eaters. The current paper provides a review of experimental and naturalistic studies investigating the relationships between self-reported emotional eater status, mood, and food consumption. It is concluded that emotional eating scales lack predictive and discriminative validity: they cannot be assumed to measure accurately what they intend to measure, namely increased food intake in response to negative emotions. The review is followed by a discussion of alternative interpretations of emotional eating scores that have been suggested in the past few years, i.e., concerned eating, uncontrolled eating, a tendency to attribute overeating to negative affect, and cue-reactive eating.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1932
Number of pages11
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Volume7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 8 Dec 2016

Keywords

  • emotional eating
  • validity
  • self-report questionnaires
  • concerned eating
  • uncontrolled eating
  • cue-reactive eating

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