Background: Emotional eating is associated with obesity, though less is known regarding factors that predict emotional eating episodes in children and adolescents. Objectives: To investigate whether moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) or total activity counts 60 minutes prior to psychological stress predicted stress-related eating and positive emotional eating (ie, eating while happy), and whether adiposity (z-BMI) moderated these associations. Methods: Participants were drawn from a prior study of siblings (N = 77; mean age = 15.4 ± 1.4 years) discordant for weight status (39 non-overweight siblings, 38 siblings with overweight/obesity) who completed an ecological momentary assessment protocol with accelerometer-based assessment of physical activity. Results: Greater MVPA was associated with lower stress-related eating across the sample. Lower total activity (between-person effects) and lower MVPA (within-person effects) were associated with greater stress-related eating for siblings with greater z-BMI. Greater total activity was associated with lower positive emotional eating for siblings with lower z-BMI (between- and within-person). Conclusions: Findings demonstrate potential regulating effects of prior physical activity on emotional eating at the individual and momentary level, though there are nuances depending on z-BMI. Future work is needed to examine underlying mechanisms and timescale of effects, and particularly the extent to which enhancing MVPA time among youth with z-BMI may mitigate momentary risk of stress-related eating episodes.
- ecological momentary assessment
- emotional eating
- physical activity