The Association between Alexithymia, Impulsivity and Negative Affect in Emotional and External Eating
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
Emotional and external eating are common eating behaviours in the general population, while not disordered eating per se they have been linked to overeating, obesity and problems engaging in health behaviours. Theories of emotional and external eating have been around for decades however little is known of the factors that contribute to these eating behaviours. Emotional and external eating tend to co-occur, and high correlations between them have been reported. Some theorists have argued that they are not distinct constructs. The current study aimed to provide further understanding on the nature and distinction between emotional and external eating in a non-clinical sample. The associations of impulsivity, alexithymia and negative affect in emotional and external eating were investigated, utilising a cross-sectional design. These variables have been shown to be related to eating behaviour in clinical samples however there has been limited research in non-clinical samples. Emotional eating was positively associated with alexithymia, negative affect and lack of perseverance, the relationship with urgency was less clear. External eating was indirectly associated with depression through the mediating variable urgency. The results indicated that emotional and external eating do show some similarities in the variables associated with them, however, the pattern of associations were different for the two eating behaviours. It appears from this study that the theoretical distinction between emotional eating and external eating is warranted with emotional eating appearing to be directly associated with problems with affect regulation whereas external eating is indirectly associated with negative affect.