Motivation and Hedonic Hunger as Predictors of Self-Reported Food Intake in Adolescents: Disentangling Between-Person and Within-Person Processes
Bejarano, Carolina M.
University of Kansas
Clinical Child Psychology
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Background: Dietary behavior contributes substantially to health across the lifespan. Understanding interactions between stable characteristics and fluctuating drive states underlying youth’s food choices may inform methods for promoting more healthful food intake. The present study examined dietary motivation and hedonic hunger as interacting predictors of adolescents’ consumption of sweet, starchy, fatty, and fast foods. Methods: Intensive longitudinal data were collected from 50 adolescent participants (ages 13-18) over a 20-day study period. Participants completed a measure of dietary motivation at baseline and reported on hedonic hunger and consumption of palatable foods via a smartphone application at the end of each study day. Results: Results indicated that 66.7% of the variability in hedonic hunger was between-person and 33.3% was within-person. Between-person hedonic hunger was positively associated with consumption of fatty foods ( = .28, p < .05) and within-person hedonic hunger was positively associated with consumption of starchy foods ( = .38, p < .0001). A significant cross-level interaction indicated that as hedonic hunger increased, the slope relating controlled motivation to starchy food consumption become more strongly positive. Autonomous motivation was negatively associated with consumption of fast foods ( = -.14, p < .05). Additionally, the interaction term of within-person hedonic hunger and autonomous motivation indicated that as hedonic hunger increased, the slope relating autonomous motivation to fast food consumption became more strongly negative. Conclusions: Findings indicate that hedonic hunger has the potential to fluctuate over time, but conceptualization of the variable as both trait and state may be most appropriate given the current findings. Results confirmed that unique relationships exist between trait motivation and fluctuating hedonic hunger, and that the interactions of these variables may hold value in understanding and addressing unhealthful dietary choices. In particular, adolescents with high controlled motivation for diet may be vulnerable to the influence of hedonic hunger and especially prone to eating higher quantities of starchy foods. Adolescents with high autonomous motivation for diet may be less vulnerable to the experience of hedonic hunger and less likely to consume fast food.
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