2011 Grant Award - Kelly C. Berg, Ph.D.

An Emotion Regulation Model of Obese Binge Eating

Kelly C. Berg, Ph.D.
Department of Psychiatry, University of Minnesota

This project proposes to examine distress tolerance (DT) as a mechanism of change in treatment-as-usual for obese binge eating (OBE).  OBE is characterized by recurrent episodes of eating during which an unusually large amount of food is consumed with a sense of loss of control, in the absence of extreme weight control behaviors.  Although several promising treatments for OBE have been identified, almost half of all patients remain symptomatic post-treatment and there is minimal understanding of which treatment components are the most effective and why.  Greater understanding of the mechanisms with which change occurs during treatment for OBE is critically important to the improvement of existing treatments and the development of new treatments.  Recently, there has been growing interest in the role negative affect (NA) plays in the maintenance of maladaptive eating behaviors. Previous investigations suggest that OBE may function to mitigate negative emotional states; however, it is unclear whether individuals with OBE use binge eating to regulate their emotions because their NA is particularly high and therefore intolerable or because their tolerance of NA is particularly low.  Additionally, whether addressing NA and/or DT in treatment is necessary to elicit change in OBE is unknown.  Thus, the specific aims of the proposed research are to test the following hypotheses: 1) that DT predicts the severity of OBE after controlling for NA using a cross-sectional study and 2) that change in DT predicts change in OBE after controlling for change in NA during treatment-as-usual using a prospective, longitudinal research design.  It is anticipated that the completion of the proposed research would lead to a submitted application for NIH funding to develop and pilot a novel treatment for OBE that focuses on DT as a mechanism for treating OBE.