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The food craving experience: Thoughts, images and resistance as predictors of craving intensity and consumption

Schumacher, Sophie, Kemps, Eva, Tiggemann, Marika
Appetite 2019 v.133 pp. 387-392
craving, prediction, questionnaires, women
The Elaborated-Intrusion Theory of Desire (Kavanagh, Andrade, & May, 2005) suggests that cravings are made up of two distinct stages whereby an initial, seemingly spontaneous craving-related thought is sufficiently intrusive and pleasant for it then to be elaborated with vivid mental imagery. Previous questionnaire studies have investigated the craving experience with a particular focus on the role of imagery. The present study sought to provide a fuller account of the craving process by investigating the role of craving-related thoughts alongside imagery in predicting craving intensity. Further, the present study sought to investigate predictors of craving-related consumption, including spontaneous strategies used to resist cravings. Two-hundred and forty-nine women completed an online questionnaire which asked about their most recent food craving experience. Results showed that around a third of participants reported craving-related thoughts and about half reported craving-related imagery. Craving-related imagery appeared to be a more important predictor of craving intensity than craving-related thoughts; however, neither predicted craving-related consumption. One resistance strategy, ‘recognised it was just a thought’, was successful in decreasing the likelihood of eating in response to craving. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed in the context of the Elaborated-Intrusion Theory.