Unhealthy Eating Could Make A Bad Mood Even Worse
March 16, 2013

Unhealthy Eating Could Make A Bad Mood Even Worse

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports — Your Universe Online

Reaching for that so-called comfort food when you´re feeling bad about yourself might not be the best idea after all, according to new research presented Friday at the at the American Psychosomatic Society conference in Miami.

As part of the study, experts from Penn State University studied the eating habits of 131 college-age women who had high levels of unhealthy eating habits and concerns about their body shape and self-image (though none of them had any type of eating disorder). They were given handheld computers that would ask them to respond to questions about their mood and their diet at various times throughout the day.

What the researchers discovered was that a person who was in a negative mood would be in an even worse one after unhealthy or “disordered” eating — including binge eating, loss of control over consumption, or food intake restriction. However, if a person were in a positive mood, they would remain in one, even after exhibiting unhealthy eating behaviors.

“There was little in the way of mood changes right before the unhealthy eating behaviors. However, negative mood was significantly higher after these behaviors,” Kristin Heron, research associate at the Penn State Survey Research Center, said in a statement.

“What we know about mood and eating behaviors comes primarily from studies with eating disorder patients or from laboratory studies,” she added. “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.”

Along with Heron, Penn State professor of biobehavioral health Joshua Smyth, Center for Healthy Aging research associate Stacey Scott and human development and family studies professor Martin Sliwinski worked on the project.

Smyth said he believed their work could help medical professionals develop better treatment options for women who are 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 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 behaviors, which could be useful for creating more effective treatment programs for people with eating and weight concerns.”