"We" overeat, but "i" can stay thin: Pronoun use and body weight in couples who eat to regulate emotion

Jane A. Skoyen, Ashley Randall, Matthias R. Mehl, Emily A. Butler

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    7 Scopus citations


    The rates of overweight and obesity in the U.S. suggest that most people have difficulty maintaining a healthy diet. Both individual factors (e.g., emotions, preferences) and social forces (e.g., partner influence) play a role in shaping eating habits, and individual factors might be differentially associated with eating depending on social conditions. The present study focuses on eating to regulate emotion (ERE) and the language used by romantic partners when discussing their health habits as interactive predictors of their body mass indices (BMI). Forty-three committed couples reported on the use of ERE and discussed their health habits with their partners during a laboratory visit. We tested whether ERE was associated with BMI under specific relationship conditions. As predicted, higher ERE was associated with higher BMI, especially for women who used more we-talk, a marker of relational cohesion, in couples with both partners having high ERE. However, women who used high I-talk in such couples had lower BMI. These findings suggest that for women sharing high ERE with their partner, using we-talk when discussing health habits might exacerbate the impact of this habit on BMI, whereas I-talk, a marker of relational autonomy, may serve a protective function.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)743-766
    Number of pages24
    JournalJournal of Social and Clinical Psychology
    Issue number8
    StatePublished - Jan 1 2014

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Social Psychology
    • Clinical Psychology


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