The Effect of Recent Meal Recall and Its Implications for Weight Loss

Change log
Szypula, Joanna 

The present thesis investigated the meal-recall effect, wherein remembering a recent meal reduces subsequent snack intake. A review of the literature suggested that the meal-recall effect might be driven by a temporary increase in interoceptive ability, which could then help individuals to perceive lingering satiety signals more strongly and to resolve ambiguous gastrointestinal signals (Chapter 2). A laboratory-based replication of the meal-recall effect was attempted, however, due to testing restrictions, data collection was prematurely ceased (Chapter 3). Instead, the effect was replicated online, with food photographs used as a proxy for intake (Chapter 4). The effect was not elicited in Experiment 1, potentially due to methodological issues, but changes to the design in Experiment 2 resulted in the meal-recall effect being successfully replicated. There was no evidence to support the idea that improved interoception was the mechanism underlying the meal-recall effect. Imagining a recent meal as bigger than in reality was shown to be an effective method of reducing biscuit intake, but visualising details of a previous meal disrupted the manifestation of the meal-recall effect (Chapter 5). Two weight loss interventions based on the meal-recall effect were tested for usability, by asking users for feedback (questionnaires and interviews) after using the interventions for a week (Chapter 6). Finally, the feasibility of a memory-based weight loss intervention was tested over a six-week period, and a number of potential improvements were identified (Chapter 7). The difference in weight loss between the intervention (1.81kg) and the control group (1.07kg) was not significant. The results suggest that a weight loss intervention based on the meal-recall effect has the potential to be feasible and acceptable to users, however more research is required to understand why the effect occurs and why it seems easily disrupted by contextual factors.

Cheke, Lucy
Ahern, Amy
memory, eating behaviour, intake, weight loss, interoception, appetite, meal memory, meal-recall effect
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge
ESRC (1942012)
Economic and Social Research Council (1942012)
This work was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (Award Number ES/P000738/1).