The tendencies to overeat in response to negative emotions (emotional eating) and environmental cues (external eating) have both been associated with BMI. However, it is unclear how they are expressed at the eating architecture level, for example, respecting frequency, timing and size of eating occasions, which could comprise ‘downstream’ specific behavioural intervention targets. In our analyses of the UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey 2000-2001, a 1-unit higher emotional eating score was associated with meals containing approximately 15 (3, 26) fewer kcals per occasion, consuming 1.4 (0.5, 2.3) more snacks per week and snacking over a 35- (16, 53) minute longer period a day. A 1-unit higher external eating score was associated with snacking over a 24- (1, 46) minute shorter period a day. Associations were independent of BMI and other potential confounders. The distinct pattern of eating architecture associated with emotional eating, suggests specific approaches to intervention, such as the number, timing and caloric content of snacks, could be considered further in experimental studies for their potential to prevent weight gain in people with a higher emotional eating tendency. Longitudinal studies and better measurement are also needed to strengthen causal inference in terms of the downstream effects of eating styles.
- SPS Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences
- Weight management
- Risk factors