BACKGROUND: The present study examined food cravings in daily life by comparing overweight and normal-weight participants right before eating events and at non-eating moments. It was hypothesised that overweight participants would have (i) more frequent, (ii) stronger and (iii) a greater variety of high-caloric palatable food cravings, and also would (iv) consume more high-caloric palatable foods, than normal-weight participants.
METHODS: Ecological momentary assessment (EMA) was used to assess food craving strength and frequency, variety of specific food cravings, and food intake. Fifty-seven overweight and 43 normal-weight adult participants were assessed at eating events and at an average of eight random non-eating moments per day for 2 weeks. Foods were categorised as: high-caloric high palatable foods (HCHP), fruits and salads, staple food dishes and sandwiches, and soups and yoghurts.
RESULTS: Overweight participants reported more frequent HCHP food cravings specifically at non-eating moments than did normal-weight participants. Normal-weight participants reported more food cravings for staple foods, specifically at eating events. Moreover, overweight participants craved a greater variety of HCHP foods than normal-weight participants at both eating events and random non-eating moments. No other significant between-group differences were found.
CONCLUSIONS: The results highlight the importance for obesity interventions (i) to specifically target high-caloric palatable food cravings that are experienced during the day and are not tied to eating moments and (ii) to aim for a reduction in the variety of high-caloric palatable food cravings. It might be fruitful to deliver treatment aimed at reducing cravings via mobile devices because this allows for easy individual tailoring and timing of interventions.
- DIETARY VARIETY
- ecological momentary assessment
- experience sampling
- food craving