Associations between use of self-regulatory strategies and daily eating patterns: an experience sampling study in college-aged women

Richard B. Lopez, Danielle Cosme, Kaitlyn M. Werner, Blair Saunders, Wilhelm Hofmann

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Abstract

Previous theorizing suggests there are multiple means by which people regulate their emotions and impulses, but that these strategies vary in the degree to which they support goal attainment. Some have proposed that proactive strategies (e.g., situation selection, distraction) may be particularly effective, while interventive strategies (e.g., suppression) are less effective. Despite these diverging predictions, researchers have yet to examine spontaneous use of these strategies and their respective and combined efficacy when applied to momentary food desires experienced in daily life. In the present study, we assessed eating patterns for one week via ecological momentary assessment in college-aged women (N=106). Results from pre-registered analyses indicated that using a variety of strategies, including preventative strategies such as situation selection and distraction, was associated with greater self-control success, as indexed by weaker desires, higher resistance, lower likelihood of enacting desires, and less food consumed. A similar pattern was observed when participants implemented additional strategies during desire episodes, which they were more likely to do when their desires conflicted with other self-regulatory goals. All associations were observed while controlling for momentary hunger levels, dieting status, age, and body mass index. These findings are consistent with a growing body of work assessing people’s spontaneous use of emotion regulation strategies in everyday contexts, suggesting potential meta-motivational tendencies marked by flexible and adaptive use of self-regulatory strategies.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
JournalMotivation and Emotion
Early online date15 Jul 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Jul 2021

Keywords

  • EMA
  • Eating behavior
  • Emotion regulation
  • Self-control
  • Self-regulation
  • Strategies

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