Date of Award

Summer 8-21-2020

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Shannon McCoy

Second Committee Member

Shawn Ell

Third Committee Member

Emily Haigh

Additional Committee Members

Mollie Ruben

Fayeza Ahmed


As obesity-related health issues account for the leading number of deaths in America, and these illnesses are even more prevalent in those that binge eat, treating obese individuals with Binge Eating Disorder (BED) has become a matter of life and death. Stress, negative affect, cognitive restraint, and impulsivity have all been implicated in binge eating symptomatology, suggesting that these may be key variables to consider when developing a comprehensive model (Groesz et. al., 2012; Friese et. al., 2015; Galanti et. al., 2007; Gay et al., 2008; Racine et. al., 2015; Leehr et. al., 2015). This project aims to further examine the relationships between these factors in college-age participants and will not be limited to obese participants or those that meet criteria for BED, which has been a limitation of previous research.

Electrocardiograph, impedance cardiography, and blood pressure equipment were used in this project to characterize a maladaptive stress response during a social-evaluative stressor and subsequent cognitive task measuring impulsivity. Self-report measures were administered throughout the lab session, and negative affect and drive to eat were assessed at the end. Information from the laboratory experiment (Study 2) study was sought to build on anonymous self-report data (Study 1) which supported these factors as significant predictors in a proposed comprehensive model of stress-induced binge eating, especially impulsivity. Specifically, Study 2 aimed to replicate Study 1 and to examine whether women higher in binge eating react differently to maladaptive stress than those who are not (i.e., with increased impulsivity, negative affect, and drive to eat).

Results of the self-report data showed that once again, perceived stress predicted increased binge eating through increased impulsivity. Further, the laboratory task demonstrated that for those who are higher (+ 1SD) in binge eating, more maladaptive stress (i.e., lower HF- HRV) was actually associated with lower negative affect while no relationship was present for others, suggesting a disconnect between conscious emotions and physical reactivity for binge eaters. This project enhances understanding of the etiology of binge eating, allowing clinicians to develop more efficacious treatments and target key factors that will lead to the greatest improvement.