Case Study: An integration of external ‘situational’ and internal ‘biological’ cues in a behavioural modification intervention to reduce snack-food consumption. The study you can’t read between meals without ruining your appetite!

Nicola Brewer


Currently, obesity is a leading threat to optimal health and wellbeing in Australia. Offsetting risks of acute and chronic disease and disability, a balanced diet offers a sound investment against premature morbidity and mortality commonly associated with obesity. Demonstrated empirically to lead to weight gain, snack-food consumption threatens a healthy lifestyle and is as prevalent as 90% in some populations. Thus, finding strategies to counteract habitual snacking is imperative. This study (n=1) investigated effects of a behavioural modification intervention using classical and operant conditioning techniques to reduce snack-food ingestion over one week. Specifically, modifications to situational cues including meal versus snack schema activation and a fixed-interval sweet reward provided a holistic ‘internal-external’ environmental strategic approach. One hypothesis was proposed; the intervention would be associated with a reduction in snack-food consumption during the seven day intervention period. Results indicated the number of snacks consumed was significantly reduced during intervention. While methodological limitations precluded causal claims and strength and direction of relationships, evidence supported an integrated biological-behavioural modification approach to reduce snacking. Moreover, results reveal the complexity of human eating behaviours which reduce spurious and deprecating accusations regarding overeating, to manageable situational risk factors. 


snacking, food, behaviour modification, situational cues, biological cues


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