Low-income women's conceptualizations of food craving and food addiction

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Eating Behaviors

Publication Date


Date Added



Food craving and food addiction have been proposed as targets for obesity focused interventions. However, individuals' conceptualizations of these constructs are not well understood and no studies have employed a qualitative approach. Therefore, we sought to understand how women conceptualize food craving and food addiction. Low-income women with preschool-aged children (2–5 years old) participated in either a semi-structured individual interview or focus group in which they were asked about their conceptualization of eating behaviors among adults and children. All responses were audio-recorded and transcribed. Themes were identified using the constant comparative method of qualitative analysis. Identified themes revealed that the women perceived food craving to be common, less severe and to a degree more humorous than food addiction. It was not felt that food cravings were something to be guarded against or resisted. Food addiction was described in a very “matter of fact” manner and was believed to be identifiable through its behavioral features including a compulsive need to have certain foods all the time. A more detailed understanding of how the general population perceives food craving and food addiction may enable more refined measurement of these constructs with questionnaire measures in the future. In addition, interventions may be designed to use the language most consistent with participants' conceptualizations of these constructs.






Public Health

Comments/Extra Notes

Additional author: Lumeng, Julie C.