Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Psychol., 25 September 2012 | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00359

Reappraise the situation but express your emotions: impact of emotion regulation strategies on ad libitum food intake

  • 1Department of Psychology, Babeş-Bolyai University of Cluj-Napoca, Cluj-Napoca, Romania
  • 2Department of Psychology, University of Konstanz, Konstanz, Germany

Research investigating the role of maladaptive emotion regulation (ER) on food intake has exclusively focused on food intake in a forced consumption situation. In contrast, the present study examined the effect of negative emotions (fear, negative affect) and ER strategies (suppression, reappraisal) on food intake in a non-forced, free eating setting where participants (N = 165) could choose whether and how much they ate. This free (ad libitum) eating approach enabled, for the first time, the testing of (1) whether eating (yes/no) is used as a secondary ER strategy and (2) whether the amount of food intake differed, depending on the ER strategy. In order to produce a more ecologically valid design, ER strategy manipulation was realized while exposing participants to emotion induction procedures. To induce an initial negative emotional state, a movie clip was presented without ER instruction. The instructions to regulate emotions (suppression, reappraisal, no ER instruction) then preceded a second clip. The results show that whereas about two-thirds of the control (no ER instruction) and suppression groups began to eat, only one-third of the reappraisal group did. However, when reappraisers began to eat, they ate as much as participants in the suppression and control groups. Accordingly, the results suggest that when people are confronted with a negative event, eating is used as a secondary coping strategy when the enacted ER is ineffective. Conversely, an adaptive ER such as reappraisal decreases the likelihood of eating in the first place, even when ER is employed during rather than before the unfolding of the negative event. Consequently, the way we deal with negative emotions might be more relevant for explaining emotional eating than the distress itself.

Keywords: emotion regulation, food intake, suppression, reappraisal, emotional eating

Citation: Taut D, Renner B and Baban A (2012) Reappraise the situation but express your emotions: impact of emotion regulation strategies on ad libitum food intake. Front. Psychology 3:359. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00359

Received: 17 June 2012; Accepted: 03 September 2012;
Published online: 25 September 2012.

Edited by:

Eduardo B. Andrade, University of California Berkeley, USA

Reviewed by:

James Gross, Stanford University, USA
Aparna Labroo, University of Toronto, Canada

Copyright: © 2012 Taut, Renner and Baban. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc.

*Correspondence: Diana Taut, Department of Psychology, Babeş-Bolyai University of Cluj, Republicii Street, No. 37, Cluj-Napoca 400015, Romania. e-mail: dianataut@psychology.ro

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