Food for mood: Experimentally induced negative affect triggers loss of control over eating in adolescents with low inhibitory control

Eva Van Malderen, Eva Kemps, Sandra Verbeken, Lien Goossens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Loss of control over eating (LOC) is common among adolescents and is associated with negative developmental outcomes. Low self-regulation, and specifically low inhibitory control, is increasingly emphasized as an underlying factor in LOC. However, the specific context in which these capacities fail remains unclear. The affect regulation model proposes that negative affect may trigger LOC; however, research has mostly assessed trait negative affect using questionnaires, whereas measuring state negative affect is needed to determine its triggering role. Therefore, this study examined the interaction between inhibitory control and state negative affect in predicting LOC among adolescents using an experimental mood-induction design. Method: Participants were 50 adolescents (10–18 years; 76% girls) from the general community. Participants first reported on their self-regulatory and inhibitory control capacities. They were then assigned to a sad or neutral mood-induction (using a film clip), followed by a multi-item food buffet from which they could eat as much as they liked. Finally, participants reported on their experience of loss of control while eating. Results: Inhibitory control (but not self-regulation in general) interacted with the mood-induction to predict LOC. Adolescents with low inhibitory control experienced significantly more LOC, but only in the sad mood condition. Discussion: The experience of negative affect appears to be an important trigger for LOC in adolescents with low inhibitory control. With a view to prevention and early intervention of LOC, inhibitory control training may be most effective in contexts where adolescents experience high levels of negative affect.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)388-398
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Eating Disorders
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


  • adolescents
  • inhibitory control
  • loss of control over eating
  • negative affect
  • self-regulation


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