The challenge of identifying behavioral alternatives to food: Clinic and field studies

Leonard H. Epstein, James N. Roemmich, Richard I. Stein, Rocco A. Paluch, Colleen K. Kilanowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Background: One of the basic principles of behavioral economics interventions is identification of alternative behaviors to compete with the reinforcing value of a highly rewarding commodity. Purpose: Two experiments that attempt to increase alternatives to eating in obese youth are presented. Methods: A randomized, controlled trial was used in Study 1 to compare a comprehensive family-based behavioral treatment program or an experimental treatment that incorporated reinforcing children for engaging in alternative behaviors to eating for 41 overweight 8- to 12-year-old children. Study 2 used a within-subject design with baseline, enriched environment and a second baseline phase to determine the influence of providing activities that compete with eating for 13 overweight 8- to 12-year-old children. Measurements included body mass index (BMI) change, alternatives to eating, eating, and physical activity. Results: In Study 1 both treatments were associated with significant (p < .05) and maintained reductions in z-BMI over the 24 months of observation. The experimental group showed a significantly (p < .05) greater increase in alternatives to eating, and both groups showed significant (p < .05) increases in physical activity. In Study 2 alternative behaviors to eating were increased by almost 1 hr/day (p < .001) but were not associated with significant changes in energy intake or physical activity. Conclusion: These results suggest that using the methods studied, increasing behaviors that could compete with eating did not influence relative weight in a clinical outcome study or energy intake in a controlled field study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-209
Number of pages9
JournalAnnals of Behavioral Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2005


Dive into the research topics of 'The challenge of identifying behavioral alternatives to food: Clinic and field studies'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this