- - Anorexia Nervosa
- - Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder
- - Binge Eating Disorder
- - Body image
- - Boulimia nervosa
- - Cognitive processes and biases
- - Craving
- - Emotional eating
- - Executive functioning & cognitive control
- - Interventions, treatment
- - Learning/conditioning processes
- - Obesity
- - Reward value of eating
- - Weight loss & dieting
“Eat less, eat better, exercise more: change your lifestyle!” Most of the obese do know this and if they could, obesity was not a problem.
“Eat more, eat better, exercise less” Most eating disordered patients do know this and if they could, eating disorders were not a problem.
Knowledge of mechanisms that maintain ingrained unhealthy habits is necessary for the development of interventions that can change behaviour effectively. My research mainly focuses on maintaining cognitive mechanisms of eating disorders and obesity. What are the mechanisms that maintain the unhealthy eating patterns, how do they precisely work, and how can we tackle them – these are the main questions.
Together with my “eating group” – a very ‘gezellig’ and productive research team – I study many cognitive processes, like learning processes, (dis)inhibition, cognitive biases and body image biases, to explain food cravings, overeating, dieting, starvation, weight control, body dissatisfaction, and so on. We try to translate most of our basic scientific findings into new interventions to tackle the sabotaging cognitive processes. Of course we do also test whether these new interventions are effective in reducing the abnormal eating and body loathing and – important – we study the mechanisms of change.
Full professor of Experimental Clinical Psychology, Faculty of Psychology, Maastricht University
Some human interest
Most interesting information of one’s CV is the human-interest section, isn’t it? Well, I am married with Fren Smulders, who is the best man in the world. Extremely intelligent, extremely handsome and – most important – extremely nice. A kind of a dream. What else do I need? Well, I also have three very lively and lovely children: Lisanne (1995), Jeroen (1997) and Asja (1998) – at least their ages refer to young adults now. And, before I forget, I also have a very busy job of which the real work (research and some teaching) is a kind of a hobby and the remainder (administration, committees, meetings, many meetings, very many meetings) is a kind of a must. I really count my blessings. O yeah, I am an Apple-fan and prefer working on my MacBook. I really don’t understand why my university keeps giving me all kinds of ugly windows computers, and doesn’t want to know that I am working on a Macbook.
Some months abroad – for work…
- Visiting Professor @University of California, San Diego, USA (May – July 2014). What a good time did we (my daughter Asja and I) have in San Diego: the sun is always shining there – I worked in the lab of Professor Kerri Boutelle, she and her team are also working on exposure interventions for obesity, like we do. It was superb. Asja went to Francis Parker high school and practiced with the La Jolla basketbal team.
- Visiting Professor @University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand (August 2007 – July 2008). Wow, living in New Zealand for a whole year was fabulous. I still miss the extremely beautiful country, its very very friendly people and their laid-back lifestyle lots.
Some professional education & qualifications
- Invited member of the KNAW (2017 – now)
- Invited member of the Sociaal Wetenschappelijke Raad (SWR) van de KNAW (2020 – now)
- Dean Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience of Maastricht University (2016 – 2020)
- 2007 – now: registered cognitive behaviour therapist @the Vereniging voor Gedragstherapie en Cognitieve Therapie (VGCt) (Dutch association of Behavioural and Cognitive Therapy)
- 1988 – 1990: PhD study in Experimental Clinical Psychology, in particular eating disorders. Dissertation: Binge Eating: notes and data (doctoral degree June 8, 1990). Supervisor/Advisor: Professor M.A. van den Hout.
- 1980 – 1986: Study Psychology, Utrecht University. Masters: Clinical Psychology, Psychopathology and Physiological Psychology. Master’s degree Cum Laude.
- 1979 – 1980: Study Musicology Utrecht University and preparatory training conservatory Utrecht (I used to play the violin, saxophone, and piano but new full-time hobbies – kids & science – replaced my old hobby’s music and sports (I used to play basketball in the promotion league (promotiedivisie) @Cangeroes Utrecht and Kimbria Maastricht).
- 1973-1979: Grammar school (‘atheneum’), College De Klop, Utrecht
Grants and prizes
Many – not too many.
Three of them should be mentioned:
- New Science of Mental Disorders”. A 20 milion grant of the Dutch Research Council (NW)) to investigate if mental disorders can be diagnosed and treated differently. I am the project leader and one of the six PI’s. See the project website.
- A VICI grant (2011 – 2016) from the Dutch Research Council (NWO) to study successful dieting “When losing is winning: beating ‘obese genes’ through extinction training”.
- Maastricht University Teaching Award for the development and realisation of innovative teaching with regard to scientific research skills (2001). I admit, this was the best course in years. Doing research in small groups under supervision of a researcher and making as many mistakes as possible.
Current editorial responsibilities
- Associative editor of Behaviour Research and Therapy (2016 – now)
- Editorial board of Appetite (2016 – now)
- Co-executive Editor of Appetite (2008 – 2016)
- Editorial Board of International Journal of Eating Disorders (2013 – 2017)
I often present our research, for scientific, therapeutic and laymen audience, by means of lectures and workshops, and sometimes I write a popular science book about psychopathology or eating disorders. Recently we made i-books and a website for health care workers, demonstrating the use of cognitive and behavioural techniques in the treatment of obesity: Learning not to eat.
Teaching & Supervision
I was involved in the development of many psychology tracks and courses, like bad habits, self-control, how-to-do-research, experimental health psychology, eating disorders, addiction, psychopathology and – long time ago – developmental psychology, psychological and social determinants of health, and psychosomatics. Each academic year, I supervise many master students in doing research and writing their theses. And many PhD students of course. Lovely to do, big fun & great parties when a dissertation is finished. It is great fun to work with highly motivated and clever students. O yeah, I also do some teaching in the postgraduate clinical psychology training for therapists and, together with my colleague Sandra Mulkens, we present master classes and workshops in CBT for eating disorders and obesity (for therapists) on a regular base.
An up to date list can be found here