Exploring tailored virtual emotion regulation approaches for individuals with emotional eating

Aranka Dol*, Lisette van Gemert-Pijnen, Lysanne M. Schwartz, Hugo Velthuijsen, Christina Bode

*Corresponding author for this work

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Background: Emotional eating is a complex problem fostering obesity and resulting from maladaptive emotion regulation. Traditional behavioural weight loss interventions have shown insignificant effect. They can be improved by targeting the specific needs of individuals with emotional eating. Objective: The current study explored a tailored online approach with the aim to positively influence affect (positive and negative) and emotion regulation by applying one of three exercises: body scan, opposite action, and positive reappraisal. Design: An embedded mixed-method design (questionnaire data (t0, t1, t2) and perceived usefulness of exercises in t2) was used to evaluate the effects of a two-week online quasi-experimental pilot study. Subjects/setting: In total, 80 participants with self-reported emotional eating difficulties (DEBQ-E; M emo = 3.48, SD =.64, range 1.62–4.92) finished baseline measurements; 15 completed the intervention. The study sample was predominantly female (95%), from 18 till 66 (M age = 38,0 ± SD = 14.25). Results: Participants reported that the exercises helped them to pay attention to their physical sensations, and to see positive aspects in negative matters. The exercises were considered difficult by the participants, with too little explanation, and dull, due to minor variation. The observed changes revealed small, and moreover, not significant improvements of the three exercises on positive and negative affect and overall emotion dysregulation. Although the quantitative results did not reach significance, the qualitative data highlighted which aspects of the tailored exercises may have contributed to mood and emotion regulation outcomes. A notable observation in the present study is the substantial dropout rate, with the number of participants decreasing from 80 at baseline (T0) to 15 at the post-intervention stage (T2). Conclusions: Future studies should identify tailored online exercises in emotion regulation skills in more detail and explore the contexts in which they are most effective in a personalized virtual coach virtual coach to be developed for individuals with emotional eating. Given the high dropout rate, more emphasis should be given to a proper presentation of the exercises, as well as more explanation of their usefulness and how to perform them.

Original languageEnglish
Article number134
JournalJournal of Eating Disorders
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


  • Body scan
  • Emotion regulation
  • Emotional eating
  • Personalized coaching
  • Positive reframing


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