Binge eating falls on the spectrum of eating disorders not otherwise specified (ED-NOS). People who engage in binge eating behaviors often have difficulty controlling the amount of food they eat and experience consequences that include negative mood states, depression, poor physical health, obesity, guilt, and shame. All of these outcomes can perpetuate the cycle of negative eating behaviors. There has been a wide contribution of research into the area of problem eating, but few studies have examined how frustration over unmet needs can influence eating patterns on a daily basis. In an attempt to look at how satisfaction or frustration of needs fulfillment affects binge eating, Joke Verstuyf of the Department of Developmental, Social, and Personality Psychology at Ghent University in Belgium recently led a study analyzing the attainment of relatedness, competence, and autonomy in a sample of 302 adolescent and young adult women. The women completed daily diaries and reported their eating habits as well as their feelings of satisfaction or frustration related to their needs. They also described their level of emotions so that emotional eating could be included in the analysis.
Verstuyf found that all of the participants experienced increases in binge eating on the days that they expressed frustration with the fulfillment of their needs. More specifically, when the women felt as if they were not part of their social networks, were not demonstrating self-control, and were not autonomous, they engaged in more binge eating. However, this was only exhibited on a daily basis. In other words, frustrated moods one day did not directly predict maladaptive eating on the next day. Verstuyf believes that women who experience chronic frustration may have fewer emotional resources with which to control their bad eating habits, which can result in an indirect relationship between needs frustration and binge eating over time. This was especially evident in the women who reported using binge eating as a way to cope with emotional stress. Verstuyf believes that these results can be useful to clinicians by underscoring the importance of identifying personal needs and by pointing out the usefulness of examining eating patterns as they occur with relation to emotional states. Verstuyf added, “Finally, our study suggests that it would be useful to target emotional eaters, as these adolescents in particular tend to lose control over eating on need frustrating days.”
Verstuyf, Joke, Maarten Vansteenkiste, Bart Soenens, Liesbet Boone, and Athanasios Mouratidis. Daily ups and downs in women’s binge eating symptoms: The role of basic psychological needs, general self-control, and emotional eating. Journal of Social & Clinical Psychology 32.3 (2013): 335-61. Print.
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