Many individuals change their eating habits under stress. There are many explanations for the variation in eating behavior. First, eating may act as a distraction from the stressor, and could therefore be a reward. Secondly, dieting behavior may collapse under stressful conditions, therefore leading the individual to consume more calories when stressed. Finally, some individuals may use eating as a coping strategy to extinguish stress and negative emotions. Although these explanations are plausible, they do not encompass the entire picture of an individual under stress. By gathering information about individual differences, such as psychological factors (i.e., restraint, mood, anxiety), behavioral factors (i.e., smoking), biological factors (i.e., cardiovascular reactivity, cortisol reactivity), and environmental factors (i.e., stress), we may be able to better understand what characteristics predispose individuals to these behaviors.
Although the majority of people report changing their eating habits under stress, the direction in which consumption goes is not as clear. Some people report overeating while stressed, while others report undereating. Many theories have developed to explain the differences between overeaters and undereaters. The proposed study will include a laboratory stress protocol to examine the extent to which exposure to acute stress influences appetite. The study will include the assessment of physiological and mood response to acute challenges and examines tastes perception, food consumption, and food preference after a period of stress or rest.
This study is funded by the University of Minnesota.