Based on research by Cools et al.. Written by Mara Rowcliffe, BS.
A common approach to losing weight is dieting, or limiting what we eat.
Although there are constantly new fad diets claiming to be fast and easy, it is no secret that they often fail; they are too good to be true. What makes it so difficult to stick to a diet, but easy to break our commitment?
Psychologists at the Chicago Medical School addressed one of the issues that make sticking to a diet so difficult: emotions. By conducting an experiment on 91 college women with varying levels of dieting, they evaluated the relationship between dieting, overeating, and emotional arousal. The women were divided into three groups where they were given popcorn to snack on, while either watching a comedy, horror, or travel (a neutral) film. Results indicated that the amount of popcorn eaten increased with the level of dieting for women who watched both the comedy and horror film. That means that regardless of positive or negative emotions elicited, emotional arousal in general may trigger overeating in dieters.
If you are on a diet, and hope to stick to it, these findings can benefit you! Be mindful of your emotional state; overeating is more likely when any intense emotions are occurring.
Cools, J., Schotte, D. E., & McNally, R. J. (1992). Emotional arousal and overeating in restrained eaters. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 101(2), 348.