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

J Behav Med. 2018 Apr;41(2):160-173. doi: 10.1007/s10865-017-9884-5. Epub 2017 Sep 16.


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.

Keywords: Emotional eating; Food craving; Mindful eating; Mindfulness; Obesity; Reinforcement; Reward; Smartphone intervention; Stress; Weight loss.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Behavior Therapy*
  • Craving / physiology*
  • Eating / psychology*
  • Ecological Momentary Assessment
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Mindfulness*
  • Obesity / psychology
  • Overweight / psychology
  • Smartphone

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02694731