Women’s Experiences of Comfort Eating: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis
thesisposted on 08.10.2013, 11:19 by Jessica Close
Literature Review: Emotional eating is being increasingly considered in the understanding of obesity and weight change (Ganley, 1989; Buckroyd, 2011). This review examined qualitative research grounded in emotional eating being a key factor of obesity and weight change. Six electronic databases were searched between August 2012 and January 2013. Included articles were published between 2000 and 2013 from the USA and Western Europe. Twenty-one articles were analysed using thematic analysis to integrate findings and generate relevant themes. Four core themes were identified: Vulnerability; Triggers; Function; and Emotional Aftermath. The findings indicated how emotional eating formed a cyclical pattern of behaviour with weight gain implicated as a primary consequence. Implications for future research and clinical practice are discussed. Research Report: Emotional eating was defined as van Strien et al. (2007) by 'the tendency to overeat in response to negative emotions such as anxiety or irritability' (p.106). The study aimed to explore women’s experiences of comfort eating, a form of emotional eating which provides self-comfort or self-soothing. Seven semi-structured interviews were conducted and analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), finding three superordinate themes: ‘The private experience of comfort eating’; ‘My emotional relationship with comfort eating’; and ‘Mind-body connection’. Themes linked to comfort eating being used to mask (Polivy & Herman, 1999) or escape (Heatherton & Baumeister, 1991) negative emotion. Vulnerabilities to comfort eating included restrained eating (Herman and Mack, 1975) childhood eating patterns and critical parental rules around food. Implications for research and clinical practice are discussed. Critical Appraisal: The processes involved in conducting a research project are discussed reflectively in the critical appraisal section. This includes: personal reflections; limitations in terms of data collection and analysis; and implications for research and clinical practice.