Eating beyond physiological need contributes to obesity onset. Measuring this behavior could help identify those at risk for weight gain. This study measured eating in the absence of hunger (EAH) and its relationship with weight change and self-report measures related to appetite and eating behavior. EAH was assessed in 46 lean young women (69% pre-selected for weight gain proneness) after lunch and defined as the number of calories subsequently consumed from snacks. Participants also completed questionnaires, and their body weights were measured regularly over the next year. Participants consumed a mean 188 calories (±140) during the EAH test. Caloric intake during the EAH test was associated with hedonic hunger (p < .01, R2 = 0.18), loss of control eating (p < .001, R2 = 0.29), and weight gain over two months (p < .01, R2 = 0.19), controlling for baseline body mass index. All were large effect sizes. In contrast, EAH was unrelated to emotional eating, disinhibition, and longer-term weight change. Amount of the test meal eaten in a hungry state was unrelated to these variables. While EAH has mainly been examined in children, these results expand its utility to adults. EAH seems to reflect naturalistic eating behavior, as shown by its relationship with short-term weight gain, drive to overconsume foods, and loss of control over eating. EAH may be a useful test to identify young adults at risk for weight gain and/or disordered eating, and may be a target for intervention.
Appetite – Elsevier
Published: Apr 1, 2018
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