Roefs et al., JHND Early View
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.
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.
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.
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.