Eating in the absence of hunger (EAH) is under-explored in adults with obesity. In this study, 50 adults with obesity recorded eating episodes and theoretically-relevant environmental, perceptual, and emotional correlates in the natural environment for 2 weeks via ecological momentary assessment (EMA). Generalized linear models and mixed models were used to characterize correlates and consequences of EAH vs. non-EAH episodes/tendencies (within-subjects and between-subjects effects, respectively), time of day, and time of day × EAH interactions. Approximately 21% of EMA-recorded eating episodes involved EAH, and 70% of participants reported at least 1 EAH episode. At the within-person level, participants' EAH episodes were associated with greater self-labeled overeating than their non-EAH episodes. At the between-person level, participants who tended to engage in more EAH reported less self-labeled overeating than those who engaged in less EAH. Across EAH and non-EAH episodes, eating in the evening was associated with overeating, expecting eating to be more rewarding, greater alcoholic beverage consumption, eating alone, eating because others are eating, and eating while watching television. Significant EAH × time of day interactions were also observed but the pattern of findings was not consistent. Findings suggest that EAH may be a relevant target for reducing food intake in individuals with obesity given its high prevalence and association with perceptions of overeating, although results should be extended using objective measures of food intake. Associations between evening eating episodes and perceptual and environmental factors should be further explored.
- Disinhibited eating
- Eating in the absence of hunger
- Ecological momentary assessment