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Eating in the absence of hunger in college students

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The body is capable of regulating hunger in several ways. Some of these hunger regulation methods are innate, such as genetics, and some, such as the responses to stress and

The body is capable of regulating hunger in several ways. Some of these hunger regulation methods are innate, such as genetics, and some, such as the responses to stress and to the smell of food, are innate but can be affected by body conditions such as BMI and physical activity. Further, some hunger regulation methods stem from learned behaviors originating from cultural pressures or parenting styles. These latter regulation methods for hunger can be grouped into the categories: emotion, environment, and physical. The factors that regulate hunger can also influence the incidence of disordered eating, such as eating in the absence of hunger (EAH). Eating in the absence of hunger can occur in one of two scenarios, continuous EAH or beginning EAH. College students are at a particularly high risk for EAH and weight gain due to stress, social pressures, and the constant availability of energy dense and nutrient poor food options. The purpose of this study is to validate a modified EAH-C survey in college students and to discover which of the three latent factors (emotion, environment, physical) best predicts continual and beginning EAH. To do so, a modified EAH-C survey, with additional demographic components, was administered to students at a major southwest university. This survey contained two questions, one each for continuing and beginning EAH, regarding 14 factors related to emotional, physical, or environmental reasons that may trigger EAH. The results from this study revealed that the continual and beginning EAH surveys displayed good internal consistency reliability. We found that for beginning and continuing EAH, although emotion is the strongest predictor of EAH, all three latent factors are significant predictors of EAH. In addition, we found that environmental factors had the greatest influence on an individual's likelihood to continue to eat in the absence of hunger. Due to statistical abnormalities and differing numbers of factors in each category, we were unable to determine which of the three factors exerted the greatest influence on an individual's likelihood to begin eating in the absence of hunger. These results can be utilized to develop educational tools aimed at reducing EAH in college students, and ultimately reducing the likelihood for unhealthy weight gain and health complications related to obesity.

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  • 2013