Introduction: Emotional eating is harmful to health and is highly prevalent in obese women. Hence, an awareness of factors underlying emotional eating is important for weight management and maintaining women's health. Research evidence indicates that several factors contribute to emotional eating behavior. The present study aimed to explore obese young Iranian women’s lived experiences of social and linguistic factors shaping emotional eating behavior.
Methods: This qualitative and hermeneutic phenomenological study was conducted on 17 young women living in the cities of Kermanshah or Karaj who experienced emotional eating and had a body mass index (BMI) of 30 and higher. The participants were selected using purposive sampling with maximum variation in terms of demographic characteristics. The data were collected through in-depth individual and face-to-face interviews and analyzed using Dickelman et al.’s (1989) seven‐step phenomenological approach.
Results: The data analysis revealed that social and linguistic factors underlying emotional eating behavior can be explained by two themes of “social influence” and “linguistic culture”. Social influence further accounted for “compensating for the stigma of thinness”, “relieving the stigma of obesity”, “group conformity”, and “following taboos to cope with sexual and emotional desires”. In addition, the theme of “linguistic culture” was explained by the two subthemes of “associating grieving with eating” and “the metaphor of swallowing anger”.
Conclusion: Following the findings of the study, psychotherapy interventions can be planned to address emotional eating and weight management with a focus on the role of social influence and the effects of spoken language in the development of emotional eating behavior.