Experimental Analysis of a Brief Emotion Regulation Intervention for Dietary Restriction
AuthorHaynos, Ann Frances
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Dietary restriction, or caloric consumption inadequate for maintenance of appropriate body weight and health, is a common practice associated with negative physical and psychological consequences. Little is known regarding the psychological processes associated with dietary restriction and successful treatments for disorders characterized by restrictive eating are extremely limited. Evidence suggests that emotion regulation may be a process relevant to dietary restriction; however, interventions targeting emotion regulation have not been evaluated for the treatment of dietary restriction. The current study examined the effects of a brief, computerized intervention targeting emotion regulation compared to an active control condition (nutrition information) within a sample of individuals who restrict their eating on the following indices related to dietary restriction: 1) a behavioral measure of the amount of effort subjects exerted to reduce caloric intake at a test meal; 2) a behavioral measure of the amount of effort subjects exerted to receive an alternate reinforcer (monetary compensation) and thus forgo opportunities to work towards reducing caloric intake; and 3) caloric consumption in the twenty-four hours following study participation. Results suggest that individuals who received the emotion regulation intervention exerted significantly less effort (p = .04) to reduce caloric intake than individuals assigned to the nutrition information condition. Results were moderated by nutrition knowledge and emotion regulation knowledge. Participants with low nutrition knowledge and/or emotion regulation knowledge engaged in less effort to reduce caloric intake if they received the emotion regulation versus the nutrition information condition (ps < .05). Results suggest that an intervention targeting emotion regulation can be helpful for reducing behaviors associated with restrictive eating, especially for individuals lacking knowledge about effective nutrition and/or emotion regulation skills.