Emotional eating during COVID-19 in the United Kingdom: exploring the roles of alexithymia and emotion dysregulation

This article was originally published here

Appetite. 2021 Jan 12:105120. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2021.105120. Online ahead of print.

ABSTRACT

Emotional eating, generally defined as (over)-eating in response to negative emotions, has been associated with poor physical and psychological outcomes. During a time of heightened negative affect, it is important to understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdown measures on eating behaviours, and further elucidate the ways in which emotional eating is related to emotion dysregulation and impaired abilities to identify emotions (i.e. alexithymia). The aims of this study were to explore perceived changes in eating behaviours in relation to self-reported negative affect during the pandemic and to examine direct and indirect effects of alexithymia on emotional eating. An online questionnaire measured these constructs in the general population of the United Kingdom (n = 136). Findings demonstrated that those who reported changes to their eating behaviours during the pandemic also reported greater levels of depression during the same time frame. Mediation analyses revealed that difficulties identifying and describing feelings both predicted emotional eating indirectly via emotion dysregulation. Findings contribute to the understanding of the mechanisms underpinning the relationship between alexithymia and emotional eating and describe changes to eating behaviours during COVID-19. We discuss how these findings should be applied, and recommendations for future research.

PMID:33450300 | DOI:10.1016/j.appet.2021.105120