Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


38th Annual Convention; Seattle, WA; 2012

Event Details

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Symposium #395
Contextual Behavioral Science as a Framework for Understanding Binge-Eating and Obesity
Monday, May 28, 2012
3:30 PM–4:50 PM
4C-3 (Convention Center)
Area: CBM; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Jillian Jacobelli (University Of Louisiana at Lafayette)
Discussant: Adria Pearson (University of Colorado, Denver)

Many people experience concerns with eating habits or weight management at some point in their lives. Behavioral interventions have had some short-term success, but have limited long term effectiveness. Coping with food cravings, weight-related stigma, and sociocultural pressure for thinness all represent significant challenges for those struggling with weight management. Contextual behavioral science offers an analysis of these aspects of context on eating behavior with direct implications for prevention and treatment. The papers in this symposium will consider obesity, binge-eating and weight management from a contextual behavioral perspective. The first will provide a contextual account of the obesity epidemic and review the empirical literature supporting this approach. The second will consider the impact of thin-ideal imagery on food consumption among women who binge-eat. The third will explore the differential impact of thought suppression and thought defusion on coping with food cravings. All three papers will consider the implications for conceptualization, prevention and treatment of eating and weight-management difficulties from a contextual behavioral perspective.

Keyword(s): Binge Eating, Contextual Behavioralism, Obesity, Sociocultural Pressure
A Contextual Approach to the Obesity Epidemic
LINDSAY MARTIN (Drexel University), Evan Forman (Drexel University), Meghan Butryn (Drexel University)
Abstract: Obesity is one of the most concerning global health issues at present (Popkin, 2010). Two-thirds of the nation is now overweight, with 34% considered medically obese (Flegal, Carroll, Ogden, & Curtin, 2010). In an environment plagued by highly caloric foods and sedentary-lifestyles (Prentice, 2007), it is harder than ever to motivate people to change their eating behavior and increase physical activity. While behavior therapy is the first-line treatment for obesity, it fails to produce long-term outcomes (Garner & Wooley, 1991). Perhaps this limitation is due, in part, to a failure to fully appreciate certain factors undermining poor eating and physical activity choices, including experiential avoidance (EA; Lillis, Hayes, & Levin, 2011) and lack of values clarification (Lillis, Hayes, Bunting, & Masuda, 2009). In the last three decades, scientists have developed a contextual framework (Hayes & Biglan, 1996) that may help understand obesogenic behavior. Humans evolved in an environment where energy resources were scarce, and calorically dense foods and energy conservation was highly appetitive. Over time, however, while food has become an ever-present stimulus, the hedonic drive to eat has persisted. This paper will outline a contextual approach to the obesity epidemic and provide lab and intervention-based evidence.

Perceived Pressure for Appearance and the Conceptualized Self: A Study of Avoidant Eating Pathology.

JILLIAN JACOBELLI (University Of Louisiana at Lafayette), Emily Kennison Sandoz (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Robert D. Zettle (Wichita State University), Angie Hardage-Bundy (Wichita State University)

Individuals who struggle with binge eating seem to eat as a way of managing aversive private events. Among the avoided events is the individuals own persistent dissatisfaction with his or her body. This dissatisfaction may be attributable to: 1) exposure to a thin-ideal, 2) exposure to sociocultural emphasis on appearance, and 3) comparison of a conceptualized self with this ideal. Study one investigated the role of perceived sociocultural pressure for appearance on eating pathology in university students. Perceived sociocultural pressure accounted for 47% of disordered eating based on the Eating Disorder Examination Questionnaire as well as 47%, 44%, 32%, and 24% of the shape concern, weight concern, eating concern and restrictive scales respectively. Study two examined the role of sociocultural pressure in eating experimentally by considering the impact of thin-ideal imagery on food consumption in women with sub-clinical levels of binge eating and high body image inflexibility. Implications for prevention and treatment of binge-eating are discussed.


Comparing Thought Suppression and Acceptance as Coping Techniques for Food Cravings

SAMANTHA CORDOVA (University Of Louisiana at Lafayette), Nic Hooper (Swansea University), Emily Kennison Sandoz (University of Louisiana at Lafayette), Louise A. Mchugh (Swansea University)

Handling food cravings seems to play a major role in weight management. Many try to simply avoid cravings. However, avoidance based techniques like thought suppression can make attempts to deal with cravings more difficult. Recent research suggests that acceptance based techniques, such as defusion, may be a plausible alternative. The current study aimed to compare these two techniques. Participants were instructed in either a thought suppression or defusion technique at the beginning of a week-long period of attempted chocolate abstinence. A control group was given no instruction. It was predicted that the participants given the defusion intervention would eat less chocolate during six days and during a final taste test. It was found that participants in the defusion group ate significantly less chocolate during the taste test than other groups. However, no difference was found in the amount of chocolate eaten throughout the duration of the experiment. The results are discussed in terms of the possible utility of acceptance based techniques in promoting weight management.




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