Experiential avoidance versus decentering abilities: the role of different emotional processes on disordered eating

  • Ana Laura MendesEmail author
  • Cláudia Ferreira
  • Joana Marta-Simões
Original Article


In modern western societies, the female body is a predominantly used dimension in self and social evaluations. In fact, the perceived discrepancy between one’s current and ideal body image may act as a pathogenic phenomenon on women’s well-being. Furthermore, significant differences in the tendency to engage in disordered eating attitudes and behaviours have been verified between women sharing similar characteristics and perceptions about body's weight and shape, which suggests  that different emotion regulation processes may be involved in this association. This study thus aims to clarify the mediational effect of two different emotional regulation processes, experiential avoidance and decentering, on the association of weight and body shape-related variables  and shame with disordered eating, in a sample of 760 women. The tested path model explained 44 % of disordered eating attitudes and behaviours, and showed an excellent model fit. Results demonstrated that body mass index had a direct effect, albeit weak, on disordered eating behaviours, and that body-image discrepancy and shame presented indirect effects through the mechanisms of experiential avoidance and decentering. Results also revealed that experiential avoidance and decentering showed significant mediator effects on the relationship of weight and body shape and shame with disordered eating behaviours. These findings suggested that while experiential avoidance exacerbates the impact of weight and body shape and shame on disordered eating attitudes and behaviours, decentering seems to attenuate this association. Our findings appear to offer significant clinical and research implications, highlighting the importance of targeting maladaptive emotion processes and of the development of decentering abilities.


Body image External shame Decentering Experiential avoidance Eating psychopathology 


Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Conflict of interest

The authors of this manuscript declare no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ana Laura Mendes
    • 1
    Email author
  • Cláudia Ferreira
    • 1
  • Joana Marta-Simões
    • 1
  1. 1.CINEICC-Cognitive-Behavioural Research CentreFaculty of Psychology and Education Sciences, University of CoimbraCoimbraPortugal

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