Recalled and momentary virtual portions created of snacks predict actual intake under laboratory stress condition

Jeon D Hamm, Rebecca R Klatzkin, Musya Herzog, Shoran Tamura, Jeffrey M Brunstrom, Harry R Kissileff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Virtual portion tasks have been used to predict food intake in healthy individuals, severity of illness in individuals with anorexia nervosa, and weight loss in bariatric surgery patients. Whether portion creation in response to a recalled interpersonal stress ("recalled stress portions") could be used as a proxy for ad lib intake, after a stressor, remains untested, and the mechanism supporting this relationship is unclear. The present study's goals were: 1) to validate virtual portion tasks as proxies for actual food intake in a stressful context and 2) to test a causal pathway in which these virtual stress portions predict ad lib intake after stress. We proposed that this relationship is mediated by virtual portions created the moment after laboratory stress or rest manipulation (momentary portions), and before the participant actually ate food. At screening, 29 healthy undergraduate white women created virtual portions of eight snacks (apples, olives, potato chips, pretzels, caramel popcorn, milk chocolate) that they typically eat and also portions they recall eating in response to a stressful interpersonal situation. In addition, after a Trier Social Stress Test, or a rest period, on separate days in counterbalanced order, participants created 'momentary' virtual portions of the same snacks presented during screening, and then were given potato chips, mini golden Oreos, and M&Ms to eat. Recalled stress (b = 0.07 ± 0.02, p = 0.003), and momentary stress (b = 0.12 ± 0.02, p = 0.00001), portions of milk chocolate accounted for 29% and 51%, respectively, of the variance in ad lib stress intake of M&Ms. Typical (b = 0.15 ± 0.07, p = 0.03), and momentary rest (b = 0.21 ± 0.06, p = 0.002), portions of chips accounted for 16% and 31%, respectively, of the variance in ad lib rest intake of chips. The causal pathway from recalled stress portion to ad lib stress snack intake was completely mediated by momentary stress portion for milk chocolate and M&Ms (β = 0.04 ± 0.02, z = 2.4, p = 0.0154). These findings illustrate the planning and recall components of eating in response to stress, but not necessarily under rest conditions. This recalled stress virtual portion paradigm has clinical and research value in that it can detect those who overconsume in response to stress.

Original languageEnglish
Article number113479
Pages (from-to)113479
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported in part by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) grant (Kissileff P-I, R01 DK108643 ).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021

Structured keywords

  • Nutrition and Behaviour
  • Physical and Mental Health


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