Appetitive Traits, Craving, and Eating Behaviors in a Community Sample of Guidance-Seeking Adults Open Access

Basu, Devika (Fall 2021)

Permanent URL:


Brewer and colleagues (2018) propose positive and negative reinforcement pathways within a learning-based “habit loop” in order to explain non-homeostatic eating behaviors (i.e., external and emotional eating). Cravings (i.e., “action urges”) are identified as the critical link that maintains problematic non-homeostatic eating and thus, are a potential target for intervention. However, the Brewer model does not identify individual difference variables that may predispose individuals toward developing this habit loop. Behavioral Susceptibility Theory (BST; Llewellyn and Wardle, 2015) posits that appetitive traits (i.e., food responsiveness and satiety responsiveness) are two vulnerabilities through which differential risk for non-homeostatic eating and subsequent weight-related difficulties may be conferred, particularly in children. Little exploration of appetitive traits as reported by adults has been conducted. The aims of the present study were to assess support for both of these models within a guidance-seeking community sample of adults by examining: 1) cross-sectional relationships between appetitive traits, craving, and non-homeostatic eating; 2) changes in craving due to use of the Mindful Eating Coach mobile-based app (MEC-2); and 3) whether appetitive traits moderated changes in craving. Participants were 123 adults (mean age = 31.9 years) who volunteered for a 3-week randomized control trial utilizing the MEC-2 app. Results from hierarchical linear regression illuminated interesting relationships cross-sectionally. Cravings were positively associated with both external and emotional eating. Food responsiveness was positively associated with cravings and external eating, while satiety responsiveness was associated only with external eating. These results did not fully support theoretical predictions and warrant further investigation. A mixed-design repeated measures ANCOVA demonstrated no changes in craving due to the intervention, and moderation analyses (conducted using the PROCESS macro) indicated no significant interactions between appetitive traits and changes in craving although these analyses were underpowered. The results of this study provide preliminary support for using both the Brewer model and BST in conceptualizing non-homeostatic eating behaviors. Continued investigation of these relationships may improve our understanding of the role of cravings in the maintenance of problematic non-homeostatic eating and help to identify more targeted and effective interventions.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents






Table 1. Sample Descriptive Statistics

Table 2. Descriptive Statistics of Study Variables

Table 3. Correlations between Study Variables

Table 4. Results from Hierarchical Linear Regression Model 1

Table 5. Results from Hierarchical Linear Regression Model 2

Table 6. Results from Hierarchical Linear Regression Model 3

Figure 1. Flow Diagram for the Present Study

Figure 2. Interaction between Food Responsiveness and Group on Change in Craving

Figure 3. Interaction between Satiety Responsiveness and Group on Change in Craving

Supplemental Materials

About this Dissertation

Rights statement
  • Permission granted by the author to include this thesis or dissertation in this repository. All rights reserved by the author. Please contact the author for information regarding the reproduction and use of this thesis or dissertation.
Subfield / Discipline
  • English
Research Field
Committee Chair / Thesis Advisor
Committee Members
Last modified

Primary PDF

Supplemental Files