Testing a mobile mindful eating intervention targeting craving-related eating: feasibility and proof of concept

Abstract

Theoretically driven smartphone-delivered behavioral interventions that target mechanisms underlying eating behavior are lacking. In this study, we administered a 28-day self-paced smartphone-delivered intervention rooted in an operant conditioning theoretical framework that targets craving-related eating using mindful eating practices. At pre-intervention and 1-month post-intervention, we assessed food cravings among adult overweight or obese women (N = 104; M age = 46.2 ± 14.1 years; M BMI = 31.5 ± 4.5) using ecological momentary assessment via text message (SMS), self-reported eating behavior (e.g., trait food craving), and in-person weight. Seventy-eight participants (75.0%) completed the intervention within 7 months (‘all completers’), and of these, 64 completed the intervention within 3 months (‘timely completers’). Participants experienced significant reductions in craving-related eating (40.21% reduction; p < .001) and self-reported overeating behavior (trait food craving, p < .001; other measures ps < .01). Reductions in trait food craving were significantly correlated with weight loss for timely completers (r = .30, p = .020), this pattern of results was also evident in all completers (r = .22, p = .065). Taken together, results suggest that smartphone-delivered mindful eating training targeting craving-related eating may (1) target behavior that impacts a relative metabolic pathway, and (2) represent a low-burden and highly disseminable method to reduce problematic overeating among overweight individuals.

ClinicalTrials.gov registration: NCT02694731.

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Acknowledgements

This study was supported by a K23 award (1K23 HL133442) from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health (Ashley E. Mason); foundational funds at the UMASS Medical School (Judson A. Brewer), and by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Institutes of Health, through UCSF-CTSI Grant Number UL1 TR000004 (Ashley E. Mason). This publication’s contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH.

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AEM, KJ, and MC completed aspects of the study, including obtaining study funding (AEM and MC), registration on clinicaltrials.gov (MC), obtaining approval of the University of California, San Francisco, Institutional Review Board (AEM and MC), participant enrollment (AEM, KJ, MC), data collection (AEM, KJ, MC), statistical analyses (AEM, MC), and manuscript preparation (AEM, KJ, MC). JB principally developed the intervention, with input on app feature content from AEM and MC, and contributed to manuscript preparation.

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Correspondence to Ashley E. Mason.

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Ashley E. Mason, Kinnari Jhaveri, and Michael Cohn declare that they have no conflicts of interest. Judson A. Brewer owns stock in Claritas MindSciences, the company that produced the app.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Mason, A.E., Jhaveri, K., Cohn, M. et al. Testing a mobile mindful eating intervention targeting craving-related eating: feasibility and proof of concept. J Behav Med 41, 160–173 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10865-017-9884-5

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Keywords

  • Smartphone intervention
  • Food craving
  • Emotional eating
  • Obesity
  • Weight loss
  • Mindfulness
  • Mindful eating
  • Stress
  • Reward
  • Reinforcement