College years are known to be pivotal in adapting to unhealthy eating behaviors. The lack of the ability to recognize physiological needs and insufficient self-regulation in food intake have been reported to be significant determinants in college weight gain. However, the relationship between self-regulation, understanding internal bodily signals, and students eating behaviors are not clear.
To examine the correlation between self-regulation of food intake, interoception, and eating behaviors in college students living in South Florida.
Study Design, Setting, Participants
Participants were 60 undergraduate college students (Mage = 19.8, SDage = 1.43, 37.9% males, 62.1% females, 66.6% Underweight/Normal weight, 33.4% Overweight/Obese). Interoception and eating behavior data were gathered using questionnaires. Self-regulation was measure using Compensation Indices (COMPX). Students had 2 visits where they were offered a preload drink (either low or high calorie) followed by an ad-libitum buffet lunch to measure the effect of the preloads on students’ food intake. Intake was estimated using pictures verified by plate weights.
Multiple linear regression analysis was performed to determine the correlation between interoception, eating behaviors, and COMPX.
When controlled for gender, there were significant correlations between interoception and COMPX (F = 5.56, P = 0.002, R2 = 0.247), emotional eating (F = 3.89, P = 0.013, R2 = 0.158), and uncontrolled eating (F = 3.95, P = 0.012, R2 = 0.163). Additionally, COMPX was associated with cognitive restraint eating (F = 8.67, P = 0.001, R2 = 0.250). When controlled for Body Mass Index (BMI), interoception only had a significant correlation with emotional eating (F = 3.10, P = 0.033, R2 = 0.131), uncontrolled eating (F = 3.06, P = 0.035, R2 = 0.131), and restraint eating (F = 5.35, P = 0.002, R2 = 0.206). There was no correlation between COMPX, eating behaviors, and interoception (P > 0.05). No significant mediation effect was observed.
College students who showed higher levels of awareness of internal bodily signals seem to have better self-regulation of food intake. Moreover, self-regulation appears to be negatively affected by the students' emotions and restraint where students show better regulation in food intake when there is less emotional influence and eating restrictions.