Background

Prior studies of binge eating (BE) have used laboratory paradigms with pre-selected foods, which limits the extent to which these paradigms capture the true experience of BE for most individuals. We examined both food choices and consumption in a novel laboratory paradigm wherein women with obesity who endorsed BE shopped at their venues of choice for (and subsequently ate) preferred foods prior to a study visit.

Methods

Participants (N=43, M (SD) age: 32.2 (6.9) y; BMI: 37.5 (5.9) kg/m2; Binge Eating Scale score: 24.2 (7.0)) completed 2 study visits 1 week apart. We instructed them to shop (~$25) for foods they found very hard to stop eating and difficult to resist in the hour before their visit. We weighed and documented food nutrition information before and after a ~10 min in-laboratory BE session, wherein we told participants “to not hold yourself back…to deeply enjoy these foods.” We report descriptive information about purchased and eaten food, as well as subjective experiences of BE (0 to 100 scale ratings).

Results

Participants purchased an average of 5 items (range: 2-11, 97% processed). Most common were sweets (42%), candies (22%), and fried foods (21%); these were also the most commonly eaten (43%, 21%, and 20%, respectively). M (SD) glycemic index for each item was 56.0 (20.7) and total glycemic load eaten was 47.5 (21.3) across both visits. On average, participants ate 700 kcal (range: 65-2002) within 10 min. Food eaten comprised primarily carbohydrates (720 grams, 46%), followed by fats (88 grams, 23%), and protein (68 grams, 17%). Participants enjoyed these foods (85/100) and felt driven to eat (73/100).

Conclusions

We tested a novel procedure for laboratory BE research wherein participants selected foods they tend to BE in their personal environments. Our paradigm may provide a more generalizable, culturally sensitive, and ecologically valid characterization of BE that includes both the planning and eating behaviors involved in BE.