Anxious Eaters

Lindsey DeBoer, doctoral student in psychology at SMU's Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, talks about her study showing that anxiety, and the fear of it, can trigger an eating binge.

By Lois B. Morris

It's not just anxiety, but fear of its symptoms—pounding heart, rapid breathing—that can trigger an eating binge. People who often lose control of their eating tend to be highly sensitive to those bodily sensations and may use food to cope, suggests research led by Lindsey B. DeBoer, a clinical psychology doctoral candidate at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. But moderate exercisers binged less than those who did vigorous aerobic exercise or none at all. That may be because some binge eaters work out intensely as a way of compensating, DeBoer says—or moderate workouts may build tolerance to stress or to the physiological effects associated with both anxiety and exercise.