Situational Cues and Momentary Food Environment Predict Everyday Eating Behavior in Adults With Overweight and Obesity

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Abstract

Objectives: Individual eating behavior is a risk factor for obesity and highly dependent on internal and external cues. Many studies also suggest that the food environment (i.e., food outlets) influences eating behavior. This study therefore examines the momentary food environment (at the time of eating) and the role of cues simultaneously in predicting everyday eating behavior in adults with overweight and obesity. Methods: Intensive longitudinal study using ecological momentary assessment (EMA) over 14 days in 51 adults with overweight and obesity (average body mass index = 30.77; SD = 4.85) with a total of 745 participant days of data. Multiple daily assessments of eating (meals, high- or low-energy snacks) and randomly timed assessments. Cues and the momentary food environment were assessed during both assessment types. Results: Random effects multinomial logistic regression shows that both internal (affect) and external (food availability, social situation, observing others eat) cues were associated with increased likelihood of eating. The momentary food environment predicted meals and snacking on top of cues, with a higher likelihood of high-energy snacks when fast food restaurants were close by (odds ratio [OR] = 1.89, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.22, 2.93) and a higher likelihood of low-energy snacks in proximity to supermarkets (OR = 2.29, 95% CI = 1.38, 3.82). Conclusions: Real-time eating behavior, both in terms of main meals and snacks, is associated with internal and external cues in adults with overweight and obesity. In addition, perceptions of the momentary food environment influence eating choices, emphasizing the importance of an integrated perspective on eating behavior and obesity prevention.

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