Date of Award

8-2017

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

Committee Member

Dr. Eric Muth, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Adam Hoover

Committee Member

Dr. Patrick Rosopa

Committee Member

Dr. Elliot Jesch

Abstract

As of 2013, the proportion of overweight and obese adults had risen to 36.9% for men, and 38.0% for woman, globally. New methods of weight management are required to combat this upward trend. These new methods must address issues of traditional approaches, mitigate external influences that lead to unhealthy eating behaviors, and embrace advances in technology. The Bite Counter is a wearable tool that monitors intake by counting the bites a wearer takes. The purpose of this study was to determine if the “zone of indifference,” the zone within which people can eat more or less without reporting a noticeable difference in satiety, actually exists, by quantifying the lower and upper boundaries of the zone. Specifically, it was hypothesized that changes in eating behavior would occur at bite targets outside of the zone, when participants were made aware of their eating targets, compared to participants who were not made aware. No changes in eating behavior were expected at bite targets within the zone regardless of whether or not participants were mindful of their eating targets. Data were collected from 208 participants eating a meal of macaroni and cheese in a laboratory setting. In a 2 (PRESENTATION: bites vs. alarm) x 6 (TARGET: 12-22 bites) between-subjects design, the participants were either given a specific bite count target (bites condition) or were told to stop eating when an alarm sounded (alarm condition). The bite targets ranged from 12 to 22 bites in increments of two. The alarm, if present, was set to a bite target using the same range. Bite count was measured post-meal as the main dependent variable along with grams consumed, bite size, and post-meal satiety. Results from the study showed a strong, positive correlation between bite count and bite target in the alarm condition (r = .765) and that bite count increased up until bite target 20 before leveling off in the bites condition. Additionally, it was shown that grams consumed and bite target were moderately positively correlated in the alarm condition (r = .303) and grams consumed increased up to bite target 16, leveled off, and then decreased beyond bite target 20 in the bites condition. In reference to behavior change, an increase in bite size was observed in the bites condition for bite targets 12 through 16 but no change in bite size was observed in the alarm condition. Finally, results showed that post-meal satiety levels held constant for bite targets 18 and 20 but surpassed the "slightly full" threshold at bite target 22. These results suggest the zone of indifference is real, and under the experimental conditions in this study was 18-20 bites of the served macaroni and cheese meal.

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