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Associations between Mindfulness, Self-Compassion, Difficulties in Emotion Regulation, and Emotional Eating among Adolescents with Overweight/Obesity

Abstract

This study explores whether the associations between mindfulness and self-compassion skills and emotional eating are mediated by difficulties in emotion regulation in adolescents with overweight/obesity, and whether the direct and indirect effects vary according to nutritional treatment and weight status. The sample included 245 adolescents (12–18 years old) with overweight (85th ≤ Body Mass Index (BMI) < 97th percentile) and obesity (BMI ≥ 97th percentile; WHO 2006) undergoing or not nutritional treatment. Participants completed self-reported measures of mindfulness, self-compassion, difficulties in emotion regulation and emotional eating. Regardless of undergoing or not nutritional treatment and of weight status, difficulties in emotion regulation mediated the associations between mindfulness and emotional eating, and between self-compassion and emotional eating. Specifically, higher levels of mindfulness and self-compassion skills were associated with less difficulties in emotion regulation, which, in turn, were associated with less emotional eating (mindfulness: point estimate = −0.14, SE = 0.06, 95%CI = −0.26/−0.05; self-compassion: point estimate = −1.76, SE = 0.67, 95%CI = −3.20/−0.58). Moreover, whereas mindfulness skills were directly associated with emotional eating, self-compassion was only indirectly associated with emotional eating, suggesting that self-compassion skills are related to emotional eating only because these skills enable more adaptive emotion regulation. Mindfulness and self-compassion may help adolescents with overweight/obesity develop more adaptive responses to emotional distress, which consequently may help them develop healthier eating behaviors. Future research should be developed on the adequacy of mindfulness and compassion-based approaches for adolescents with overweight/obesity.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology under grants [ref. SFRH/BD/102722/2014; SFRH/BPD/70063/2010].

Author Contributions

MJG: designed and executed the study, conducted the data analyses, and wrote the paper. 
MCC: collaborated in the editing of the final manuscript. 
HM: collaborated with the design and writing of the study and assisted with the data analyses.

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Gouveia, M.J., Canavarro, M.C. & Moreira, H. Associations between Mindfulness, Self-Compassion, Difficulties in Emotion Regulation, and Emotional Eating among Adolescents with Overweight/Obesity. J Child Fam Stud 28, 273–285 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-018-1239-5

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Keywords

  • Mindfulness
  • Self-compassion
  • Difficulties in emotion regulation
  • Emotional eating
  • Adolescents with overweight/obesity