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Understanding the Function of Emotional Eating: Does it Buffer the Stress Response and Help Us Cope

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Technical Report

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Uniformed Services University Of The Health Sciences Bethesda United States

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Evidence supporting the relationship between food and mood is growing. Specifically, eating in response to negative mood, or emotional eating, has been reported in obese individuals Ganley, 1989, binge eaters Abraham and Beumont,1982 Heatherton and Baumeister, 1991, restrained eaters Polivy and Herman, 1999 and non clinical individuals as well E. Stice, Ziemba, Margolis, and Flick, 1996. Affect regulation models of eating in response to stress suggest that individuals use food to improve their mood. If individuals do use food as an attempt to improve mood, then this type of eating may be considered a type of coping mechanism. Coping is defined as any effort at stress management Cohen and Lazarus, 1979 or specific efforts, both behavioral and psychological, that people employ to master, tolerate, reduce, or minimize stressful events Folkman and Lazarus, 1985. If individuals use emotional eating as a coping mechanism over time, then this behavior may ultimately result in weight gain and subsequent health risks.

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