Unhealthy eating can cause women who are concerned about their diet and self-image, to experience a worsening of their moods, a new study has revealed.
In the study by Penn State researchers, college-age women who were concerned about their eating behaviors reported that moods worsened after bouts of disordered eating, Kristin Heron, research associate at the Survey Research Center Penn State researchers.
“There was little in the way of mood changes right before the unhealthy eating behaviors. However, negative mood was significantly higher after these behaviors,” Heron said.
According to Heron, who worked with Joshua Smyth, professor of biobehavioral 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 behaviors such as binge eating, loss of control over eating and food intake restriction.
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 behaviors 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 behaviors.
“What we know about mood and eating behaviors comes primarily from studies with eating disorder patients or from laboratory studies,” Heron said.
“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 behaviors,” she said.
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 behaviors as they occur in people’s daily lives, which can provide a more accurate picture of the relationship between emotions and eating,” he added.