Psychological Stress, Diary Methods, and Eating Behavior



A growing body of research has shown that psychological stress affects health directly through autonomic and neuroendocrine responses as well as indirectly through changes to health behaviors. This chapter reviews research findings, in non-eating disordered populations, that have explored the indirect pathway in terms of eating behavior. Broadly speaking, the research has indicated that high levels of stress are associated with both increased and decreased overall food intake. While work on between-meal snacking has found stress to be associated with an increase in snacking in adults and adolescents, a number of moderators of the stress–eating relationship have also been identified that fall into two categories: type of stressor and eating style. Physical threats seem to lead to a reduction in food intake whereas other types of stressors such as ego threatening, interpersonal, and work related are more likely to lead to an increase in food intake. Restraint, emotional eating, externality, disinhibition, gender, and obesity status have all been found to moderate stress–eating relations. The only study to examine multiple moderators simultaneously identified emotional eating as the preeminent moderator. This chapter also introduces the conceptualization of stress as daily hassles and focuses on the use of diary methods as an approach for exploring the effects of stress on eating behavior. In particular, the utilization of multilevel modeling using diary methodology is discussed. This approach allows researchers to examine the impact of daily fluctuations in stressors on eating behaviors, together with the between-subject effects of individual differences variables.


Eating Behavior Daily Diary Emotional Eating Daily Hassle Restrained Eater 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Psychological SciencesUniversity of LeedsLeedsUK

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