Journal article Open Access

Effects of a Smartphone-Based Approach–Avoidance Intervention on Chocolate Craving and Consumption: Randomized Controlled Trial

Meule, Adrian; Richard, Anna; Dinic, Radomir; Blechert, Jens

Background:

Repeatedly pushing high-calorie food stimuli away based on joystick movements has been found to reduce approach biases towards these stimuli. Some studies also found that such avoidance trainings reduced consumption of high-calorie foods.

Objective:

To make such interventions suitable for daily use, this preregistered study tested effects of a smartphone-based approach–avoidance intervention on chocolate craving and consumption.

Methods:

Within a ten-day period, participants (n = 105, 86% female) either performed five sessions during which they continuously avoided (i.e., swiped away/upwards) chocolate stimuli (experimental group, n = 35), performed five sessions during which they approached and avoided chocolate stimuli equally often (placebo control group, n = 35), or did not perform any training sessions (inactive control group, n = 35). Training effects were measured during laboratory sessions before and after the intervention period and further continuously through daily ecological momentary assessment (EMA).

Results:

Self-reported chocolate craving and consumption as well as body fat mass significantly decreased from pre- to post-measurement across all groups. EMA reports evidenced no differences in chocolate craving and consumption between intervention days and rest days as a function of group.

Conclusions:

A smartphone-based approach–avoidance training did not affect eating-related and anthropometric measures over and above measurement-based changes in the current study. Future controlled studies need to examine whether other techniques of modifying food approach tendencies show an add-on benefit over conventional, monitoring-based intervention effects. Clinical Trial: https://aspredicted.org/pt9df.pdf

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