Exploring the Relationship Between Chocolate Cake-Related Guilt, Eating, and Individual Differences
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
Food and eating are often associated with both positive and negative emotions: pleasure and enjoyment, and also worry and guilt. Guilt has the potential to have both adaptive and maladaptive consequences on health behaviours. The present study aimed to further explore the relationship between a default association of guilt with a ‘forbidden’ food item (i.e., chocolate cake) and healthy eating behaviours, attitudes, intentions, and perceived behavioural control. Individual difference variables (self-control, self-compassion, and neuroticism) and stress were also examined in relation to guilt. This study investigated the influence of a default guilt association on hypothetical and actual food choices. The findings suggest that food-related guilt can have both adaptive and maladaptive consequences on healthy eating behaviours and on individual difference variables. Individuals with chocolate cake-guilt associations reported healthier eating intentions and higher perceived behavioural control in relation to healthy eating. Those with guilt associations did not report more positive attitudes toward healthy eating nor higher self-control. They reported lower levels of self-compassion and higher levels of neuroticism and perceived stress. In regard to a hypothetical food choice, no differences were found between those with guilt or celebration associations. With one exception, guilt did not have adaptive effects during a taste test in regard to sweet and savoury food intake and post-eating guilt. Self-control appeared to be a protective factor from the maladaptive effects of guilt: self-control moderated the relationship between a guilt association and healthy eating intentions and savoury food intake. The overall findings from this research indicate that an alternative approach to promoting healthy eating and living should be considered.