Boutelle and colleagues are developing new ways to treat overeating in children and adults. Their study describes two new methods for reducing overeating. The overall aim of these studies is to improve responses to internal hunger and satiety cues and decrease physiological and psychological responses to foods in the environment. Basically, how do we learn to stop eating when we are no longer hungry?
The first treatment group, called appetite awareness training, trains children and parents to recognise, and appropriately respond to, hunger and satiety cues. The other treatment group, called cue exposure training, trains children and their parents to resist the food that is in front of them.
"We teach children and parents how the environment tricks us into eating foods even when we're not hungry," said Boutelle, citing examples of food triggers such as TV commercials, the abundance of easy-to-eat and high-calories snacks, and the use of food as a reward.
In this study, 36 obese 8-to-12-year olds with high levels of overeating and their parents were assigned to eight-week-long training, either in appetite awareness or a cue-exposure treatment. Children were provided a toolbox of coping skills to "ride out their cravings" – identifying such cravings and learning strategies to ride them out until the urges diminished (but only when they were not physically hungry).
While the appetite awareness group focused on training the participants to regulate eating by focusing on internal cues of hunger and appetite, the cue exposure group trained the participants to tolerate cravings to reduce overeating.
Children and parents in the appetite awareness group brought dinner into the clinic and practiced monitoring their hunger and satiety cues throughout the meal. Children and parents in the cue exposure group brought in their highly craved foods and "stared them down" – holding, smelling and taking small bites of the food – for up to 20 minutes while rating their cravings, after which they threw away the food.
In post-treatment surveys, 75 per cent of the children in the appetite awareness group and more than 50 per cent of children in the cue exposure group liked the program "a lot" or "loved it." A high percentage (81 and 69 per cent, respectively) reported feeling more in control of their eating due to the program.
The researchers assessed the impact of these two different eight-week treatments on body weight, overeating, binge eating and caloric intake in both the children and parents.
MEDICA.de; Source: University of California, San Diego