Mood's influence on Eating Behaviour

A* essay on mood's influence on eating behaviour.

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  • Created on: 04-01-12 20:11
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Discuss one factor that affects eating behaviour.
When we eat, what we eat and our perception of food is our eating behaviour, It can be affected by a
number of factors such as culture, religion for example, health worries and mood. In this essay I shall be
discussing mood as a factor in which influences our eating behaviour.
Mood can have a big impact on what we choose to eat & in what quantity, for example, when we are feeling
low we tend to turn to foods that are high in sugars and carbohydrates in the hope that it would help alleviate
any emotional distress we are experiencing, this is known as 'comfort eating'. A study carried out by Garg
supports this theory. He observed the food preferences of 38 participants that were watching an upbeat film,
and a sad film. They were offered the choice of either grapes or buttered popcorn, and the results showed
that those who were watching an upbeat film ate the healthier option of grapes, whilst those watching a sad
film ate 36% more popcorn than those watching a happier film. Garg concluded that those who were
watching a sad film chose the popcorn in the attempt to 'jolt themselves out of the dumps' as it gave the
participants a rush of happiness when they ate the popcorn. However, when the participants were informed
of the nutritional value about the foods prior to viewing, the consumption of the unhealthy snack decreased.
Low mood also has an effect on binge eating, this is shown in the research carried out by Wegner et al.
Wegner asked students to record their eating patterns over a 2 week period & the results showed that the
days when participants were feeling low followed a binge eating session, however there were no difference
before to their mood before or after over eating. Criticisms with this study is that they only utilized students,
therefore there was a sample bias. The results may also have been unreliable as the students could have
lied as a result of demand characteristics, showing behaviour they believed the researcher wanted to see.
Often following a binge eat, we feel guilty which is one step to many of the vicious cycle of over eating.
After we feel guilty, we restrict ourselves which later results to feeling hungry, therefore we overeat. As a
consequence, we then feel overwhelmed with guilt, therefore we comfort eat in order to alleviate the
negative feelings. The implications of this cycle is that it can later result in psychological abnormalities, such
as depression.
Stress influences our food choices in the sense that we tend to either increase or decrease our food
consumption. It could be suggested that due to the fact stress causes physiological changes in our bodies
when we feel stressed, it therefore affects our eating attitudes. Antelman's study on rats supports that
stress influences our eating behaviour. In his study he had the showed that when the rats became stressed
from having their tails pinched, the ate more food., however this is an animal study therefore has no
external validity, making it difficult to generalise to humans. Also, it could be argued that it was an unethical
experiment. Apart from this study supporting the hypothesis that stress influences eating behaviours, it is
still unclear to how it does. However, different people tend to react differently to stress in relation to eating
behaviour, this is called individual differences. emotional eaters may have difficulties distinguishing the
difference between hunger and anxiety. The emotional intelligence of a person can determine their
relationship to food when stressed, for example those who have higher EI will not likely rely on food to
regulate their mood as much as those with lower EI.
In conclusion, our inconsistent mood has a big influence on food, however other factors such as how we are
nurtured or our biology also play a part in our food choices. Our behaviours towards food is complex and
more research is needed.


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