Date of Graduation

8-2019

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Psychological Science

Advisor

Jennifer Veilleux

Committee Member

Ana Bridges

Second Committee Member

Denise Beike

Keywords

Dieting, Eating, Ecological Momentary Assessment, EMA, Emotion, Self-regulation

Abstract

Despite an increase of research in the realm of overeating - a well-known contributor to obesity - the psychological mechanisms that maintain overeating behaviors across time and context are still poorly understood. It may be that people’s perceptions of their self-regulation abilities fluctuate over time, and overeating results from momentary increases in negative mood eliciting negative perceptions of their self-efficacy and current willpower, stronger beliefs that cravings can be controlled and a greater ability to tolerate distress. The current study examined the dynamics of and momentary predictors of overeating using a 7-day EMA protocol to study unsuccessful restrained eaters (n = 94, Mage = 28.01, 83.2% female) in their natural environments. Participants (1) were randomly prompted 7 times per day to assess mood, momentary perceived self-regulation abilities, and situational context and (2) initiated an event-based prompt when consuming food. Results indicated perceived self-regulation abilities varied across time and context, and mediated the relation between negative affect and overeating, such that lower levels of negative affect predicted severity of overeating via lower levels of perceived self-regulation abilities (e.g., perceptions of willpower, craving uncontrollability, distress tolerance). Craving uncontrollability and willpower emerged as distinct predictors of overeating severity among this sample. These findings provide important implications for the treatment of overeating, suggesting that treatments may be improved by addressing the role of fluctuations in perceived self-regulation abilities in predicting overeating.

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