Eating to cope: Advancing our understanding of the effects of exposure to racial discrimination on maladaptive eating behaviors

Kristal Lyn Brown*, Andrea K. Graham, Robert A. Perera, Jessica Gokee LaRose

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Racial discrimination is a stressor for young Black women that leads to poor health outcomes, including maladaptive eating. This study presents findings on racial discrimination and maladaptive eating behaviors (overeating, LOC eating) using ecological momentary assessment (EMA). Methods: Black emerging adult women (N = 27) with overweight or obesity participated in a 14-day EMA study examining exposure to racial discrimination, eating behaviors, and racial identity. Frequencies and chi-square tests were used to characterize the type of racial discrimination experienced and frequency of overeating. Mixed effect ordinal logistic regression models were used to assess the relation between racial discrimination and maladaptive eating. Moderation analysis was conducted by creating interaction terms for discrimination and racial identity variables. Results: 81.5% of participants reported experiencing racial discrimination. Young Black women reporting exposure to racial discrimination were more likely to endorse higher levels of both overeating and LOC eating compared to times when discrimination was not experienced (p <.0001). Racial identity moderated the link between racial discrimination and maladaptive eating (overeating, LOC) such that reporting greater levels of private regard buffered the deleterious effect of racial discrimination. Higher levels of public regard exacerbated the association between racial discrimination and both overeating, and LOC. Higher centrality worsened the relation between racial discrimination and LOC. Conclusion: Young Black women might use maladaptive eating to cope with exposure to racial discrimination, which underscores the importance of examining the link between racism and disordered eating, particularly among Black women submerged in a society that continuously exposes them to racial discrimination. Public Significance: Emerging adult Black women are exposed to racial discrimination daily. In theory, exposure to racial discrimination could contribute to overeating and loss of control eating in this population. Using ecological momentary assessment, to capture experiences and eating behaviors in the moment they occur, this project quantified the magnitude of racial discrimination and how it was associated with maladaptive eating behaviors. Further, it examined ways in which racial identity was linked to this association.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1744-1752
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Eating Disorders
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Black women
  • binge eating
  • eating disorders
  • ecological momentary assessment
  • emerging adults
  • loss of control eating
  • obesity
  • race/ethnicity
  • racial discrimination
  • racism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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