Eating in the absence of hunger in college students

Taylor A. Arnold, Carol Johnston, Chong Lee, Andrea M. Garza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Nearly one-third of college students are overweight or obese. Disinhibited eating, a phenomenon defined as the lack of self-restraint over food consumption prompted by emotional or external factors, is prevalent among college students and may be a target for intervention in this population. Eating in the absence of hunger (EAH) is a form of disinhibited eating that has been studied extensively in children and adolescents, but there is little investigation of EAH among college students. In this research, a validated measure for assessing continual and beginning EAH in children and adolescents was modified and assessed in a free-living college population (n=457; 84% F; 24.5±7.6 years; 23.4±4.8kg/m2). Nine subscales grouped into three latent factors (emotion, external, and physical) accounted for 68% of the variance in continual EAH, and a separate set of nine subscales grouped into the same latent factors accounted for 71% of the variance in beginning EAH (Cronbach's alpha: 0.82 for continual EAH and 0.81 for beginning EAH). Female sex and sedentary behavior were significantly related to continual EAH, relationships driven by scores for the emotion factor, and to beginning EAH, relationships driven by scores for the physical factor. BMI was weakly related to the emotion factor (p=0.06) for continuing EAH only. The observation that a sedentary lifestyle was associated to EAH (both continuing and beginning EAH) in a college population is a novel finding and reveals a possible strategy to moderate EAH.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)51-56
Number of pages6
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015


  • Disordered eating
  • EAH
  • Emotional eating

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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