Negative Affect as a Justification for Overeating
S. Prinsen1, C. Evers1, J. de Witt-Huberts2, M. Adriaanse1, D. de Ridder1
1Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands
2London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
Background Self-regulatory conflicts involve choosing between immediate gratification (chocolate) and adhering to long term goals (a slim figure). Just like compensatory health beliefs, justifications are used to resolve such conflicts so that temporary abandonment of the long term goal is made acceptable for oneself. We examined if negative affect can serve as a justification for overeating. Methods Ninety female students participated in a lab study. Aversive pictures were shown for a longer vs. shorter duration (strong vs. weak affective recall condition). Affect was measured at baseline and after the presentation of the pictures. Next, unhealthy food intake was measured in a bogus taste test. Findings Although participants in both conditions experienced negative affect equally intensely, participants in the strong affective recall condition memorized more aversive pictures and ate more unhealthy foods compared to participants in the weak affective recall condition. Discussion These findings suggest that negative affect can serve as a justification to overeat. Also, identifying different justification types is of vital importance for understanding health behavior.