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Dissertation: 21.5.2016 M.A. (Psych) Essi Sairanen (Faculty of Social Sciences, Psychology)


21.5.2016 12:00 — 15:00

Location: Mattilanniemi, Agora, Lea Pulkkisen sali
M.A. (Psych) Essi Sairanen defends her doctoral dissertation in Information Technology ”Behavioral and Psychological Flexibility in Eating Regulation Among Overweight Adults”. Opponent Professor Evan Forman (Drexel University) and custos Professor Raimo Lappalainen (University of Jyväskylä). The doctoral dissertation is held in English.

Essi Sairanen, kuvaaja: Lilja TervoM.A. (Psych) Essi Sairanen defends her doctoral dissertation in Psychology ”Behavioral and Psychological Flexibility in Eating Regulation Among Overweight Adults”. Opponent Professor Evan Forman (Drexel University) and custos Professor Raimo Lappalainen (University of Jyväskylä). The doctoral dissertation is held in English.


Weight-loss programs are often based on self-control techniques and they commonly fail in long-term weight management. Identifying psychological processes that explain eating behaviors can help to develop more effective interventions for long-term weight management. This research examined how behavioral and psychological flexibility are related to eating regulation and weight management in overweight adults. The first goal was to study the effects of flexible vs. rigid restraint of eating on weight-loss maintenance and well-being. The second goal was to examine whether psychological flexibility and mindfulness, independently and together, explain intuitive eating regulation. The third goal was to evaluate the mediating effects of mindfulness and psychological flexibility on enhancing intuitive eating and losing weight in acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) interventions. The first data set included information on 49 overweight persons who participated in a weight-loss intervention. The results indicated that an increase in flexible cognitive restraint was related to better weight-loss maintenance and well-being. Moreover, a larger reduction of rigid restraint during the follow-up period was related to a better maintenance of improved psychological well-being. The second data set featured overweight, psychologically distressed persons (n = 306) who participated in psychological lifestyle interventions. The results indicated that mindfulness and psychological flexibility were related constructs that explain intuitive eating together, but also independently. The third study investigated participants of the ACT interventions (face-to-face in a group and mobile, n = 219). Changes in weight-related psychological flexibility mediated the effects of the interventions on weight and intuitive eating. These findings suggested that enhanced ability to continue with valued activities even when confronted with negative emotions and thoughts related to one’s weight mediated the intervention effect in the ACT-based interventions aiming for lifestyle changes. In conclusion, this research supports flexibility and acceptance processes as a means for treating eating and weight issues.

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Essi Sairanen