Taking part in unhealthy eating behaviours may cause women
who are concerned about their diet and self-image to experience a worsening of
their moods, according to Penn State researchers.
In a study, college-age women who were concerned about their
eating behaviours reported that moods worsened after bouts of disordered
eating, said Kristin Heron, research associate at the Survey Research Center.
"There was little in the way of mood changes right
before the unhealthy eating behaviours," said Heron. "However,
negative mood was significantly higher after these behaviours."
According to Heron, who worked with Joshua Smyth, professor
of biobehavioural health, Stacey Scott, research associate in the Center for
Healthy Aging, and Martin Sliwinski, professor of human development and family
studies, people who experience disordered eating patterns may exhibit behaviours
such as binge eating, loss of control over eating and food intake restriction.
How the study was
The researchers detected little change in the participants'
moods prior to unhealthy eating. While negative mood was worse after disordered
eating, a positive mood did not change either before or after any of the behaviours
studied by the researchers.
The researchers gathered data from participants in real-life
situations. The team gave handheld computers to 131 women who had high levels
of unhealthy eating habits and concerns about their body shape and weight, but
did not have eating disorders. Several times during the day, the devices would
prompt the participants to answer questions about their mood and eating behaviours.
"What we know about mood and eating behaviours comes
primarily from studies with eating disorder patients or from laboratory
studies," said Heron. "We were interested in studying women in their
everyday lives to see whether mood changed before or after they engaged in
unhealthy eating and weight control behaviours."
Smyth said that the study could lead to better treatments
for women experiencing eating problems.
"This study is unique because it evaluates moods and
eating behaviours as they occur in people's daily lives, which can provide a
more accurate picture of the relationship between emotions and eating,"
Smyth said. "The results from this study can help us to better understand
the role mood may play in the development and maintenance of unhealthy eating,
and weight-control behaviours, which could be useful for creating more
effective treatment programs for people with eating and weight concerns."