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Keywords:

  • binge eating;
  • ecological momentary assessment;
  • covariation;
  • mood

Abstract

Objective

Although many current theories of disordered eating focus on affective mechanisms, relatively little is known about the covariation of mood and eating in peoples' natural environments. This study examined the relationship between mood and binge eating behavior in the natural environment.

Method

Twenty-seven college students with subclinical binge eating behavior self-monitored their mood on a handheld computer seven times daily for 2 weeks.

Results

On binge days, participants reported having significantly worse mood than on nonbinge days. When the trajectory of mood around the time of a binge was examined, no significant differences between prebinge and postbinge time were found when the entire binge day was examined. No mood differences were found between just prior to the binge (30–60 min prior to binge) compared with just after the binge (also within 30–60 min). A postbinge report indicated that reported mood immediately after a binge was worse than mood just prior to the binge.

Discussion

This study provides evidence that the affective experience of binge eating, when assessed in the natural environment, is negative. Furthermore, there was no evidence that binge eating was a response to an immediate or transient negative mood state or that binge eating provided relief from negative mood. © 2002 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 32: 352–361, 2002.