Effects of anxiety on eating: does palatability moderate distress-induced overeating in dieters?

J Abnorm Psychol. 1994 Aug;103(3):505-10. doi: 10.1037//0021-843x.103.3.505.


When confronted with an anxiety-producing threat to self-esteem, restrained eaters (dieters) increase their food consumption. The functional explanation suggests that increased eating temporarily counteracts or masks dysphoria for the restrained eater; externality or stimulus sensitivity theories propose that distress shifts the dieter's attention to external stimulus properties (e.g., taste) and to activities stimulated by such external cues. In an attempt to distinguish between these two explanations, anxious and nonanxious restrained and unrestrained eaters were given palatable and unpalatable foods, and consumption was measured. Results support the functional explanations: Distressed dieters increased their intake of food regardless of taste properties. Theoretical and practical implications for both restrained eating and the behavior of eating disorder patients are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Diet*
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / etiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Self Concept