Virtual coaching for emotional eaters: Food for thought

Research output: Ph.D. ThesisPhD Research internal, graduation external


Obesity is a complex problem worldwide. This chronic condition has many different causes. One of them is emotional eating. In about 40% of overweight people, emotional eating plays a major role. Emotional eating is the tendency to (over)eat in response to negative emotions such as stress or irritability. The target group is at a distance from care - due to shame they do not dare to seek help. Within the mental health services there are long waiting lists.

The goal of this dissertation is to gain knowledge to support emotional eaters in coping with emotional eating behavior in a self-help setting that is appropriate to the time and context. To achieve this, we need to better understand the needs of emotional eaters in terms of virtual coaching and self-management. We formulated the following research question, "How can virtual coaching facilitate emotional eaters to cope with self-management of their emotional eating behavior?"

Knowledge was gathered about their wishes regarding virtual support. Based on this, personas were developed, labeled with emotions, that give shape to the two prototypical problem situations of the emotional eater: 1) experiencing cravings, and 2) giving in to those cravings through binge or overeating.

Participants recognized themselves in the problem situations presented, and that there is a need for virtual coaching and for greater understanding of one's own emotions and emotion regulation skills.
Research was conducted on the possibilities surrounding the customized delivery of exercises in emotion regulation, which revealed that people mentioned the potential of the exercises, but that their presentation needed improvement.
Virtual coaching is potentially successful for this group; participants showed themselves to be accessible and visible; there was openness and outspokenness by the participants about situations presented, etc.; there was goodwill towards digital coaching and doing exercises; the participants also showed themselves to be competent in doing exercises independently.

The chance of success with regard to the development of a virtual coach has increased because the target group is open to virtual coaching where future users can work independently with their problems.
Translated title of the contributionVirtuele coaching voor emotie eters: Stof tot nadenken
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Universiteit Twente
  • van Gemert-Pijnen, Lisette, Supervisor, External person
  • Bode, Christina, Supervisor, External person
  • Velthuijsen, Hugo, Supervisor
Award date13 Nov 2023
Place of PublicationEnschede
Print ISBNs978-90-365-5763-4
Electronic ISBNs978-90-365-5764-1
Publication statusPublished - 13 Nov 2023


  • virtual coaching
  • emotional eaters


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