Eating and emotion: focusing on the lunchtime meal

Lorraine Brown (Bournemouth University, Poole, UK)
John Edwards (Bournemouth University, Poole, UK)
Heather Hartwell (Bournemouth University, Poole, UK)

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Publication date: 8 February 2013



The purpose of this paper is to investigate the changes in emotion brought by eating the midday meal. Many aspects of eating out have been studied, yet emotions remain an under‐researched area, despite having been shown to play a significant role in food consumption.


This paper reports findings from a qualitative study, involving semi‐structured interviews with British undergraduates about changes in their emotional state after eating their lunchtime meal. Data were analysed through the technique of thematic analysis.


Participants observed a clear relationship between their emotions and eating a meal, with changes noted in concentration, energy and happiness levels. The quality of the food eaten was an issue of concern to participants; access to a healthy meal was seen to be important, given the perceived benefits for emotional and physical health. Finally, eating was deemed to be both a physical and social activity. Eating in company enhanced the emotional experience of dining, as it offered the opportunity to bond with friends. Recommendations for further research are made.


This research addresses a paucity of information on the link between food and emotion, helping to better understand the role of emotions when eating out. Further research into different settings is called for in order to broaden the understanding of the relationship between eating and emotional state, and to find out whether or not similar findings emerge from alternative settings.



Brown, L., Edwards, J. and Hartwell, H. (2013), "Eating and emotion: focusing on the lunchtime meal", British Food Journal, Vol. 115 No. 2, pp. 196-208.

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