Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
March/April Volume 24, Number 2
©2013 Gürze Books
Food thought suppression is related to a number of unwanted eating and weight-related consequences, especially among obese individuals. A few years ago researchers at Yale University School of Medicine found that food thought suppression was significantly and positively associated with many features of eating disorders in non-binge-eating women and with eating concerns in men with BED (Eat Behav. 2011; 12:272). Until recently, little research had been done into food thought suppression among obese individuals with binge eating disorder (BED).
The Yale researchers, led by Dr. R.D. Barnes, have updated their research with a study examining the factor structure and clinical correlates of the Food Thought Suppression Inventory (FTSI). The classic measure of general thought suppression, the White Bear Suppression Inventory, the precursor to the FTSI, was based on the “white bear” experiment conducted in 1987(J Personality Soc Psychol. 1987; 53:5). In the first experiments, normal subjects were assigned to one of two groups. The first group was instructed to suppress the thought of a ‘white bear’ for 5 minutes. The order of instructions was reversed for the second group, so that the group members expressed and then suppressed thoughts of the ‘white bear.’ Subjects in both groups were instructed to ring a bell whenever they thought of a white bear. Those in the second group rang the bell more frequently, and the researchers surmised that suppression of unwanted thoughts led to a rebound effect—that is, an exacerbation of such thoughts later on.
Dr. Barnes and colleagues examined the factor structure and clinical correlates of the FTSI among 128 treatment-seeking obese women with diagnoses of BED (Eat Behav. 2013;14:35). When they analyzed their results, they found that the FTSI is a valid one-factor measure of food thought suppression related to higher levels of eating and general psychopathology, providing evidence of the validity of using the FTSI for testing food thought suppression among obese women with BED.