Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Nutrition and Food Science


Nutrition and Food Sciences

First Advisor

Kathleen J. Melanson


Problem Statement: Eating behaviors have been found to differ between overweight and lean individuals. Eating faster, taking more bites, and larger bite sizes have been associated with increased energy intake. Effective weight management interventions that target within-meal eating behaviors, such as biting, chewing, swallowing, and pausing, are limited.

Background: A five-week intervention study designed to modify within-meal eating behaviors reduced laboratory eating rate of healthy young female participants who were overweight. The effect of the Eating Pace Instructional Classes (EPIC) intervention at the level of individual bites of food was not previously examined.

Methods: Secondary data analysis of ad libitum meals eaten over a universal eating monitor. Meals were served in the laboratory before (PRE) and after (POST) the intervention. A total of 82 meals were analyzed: PRE and POST meals for each experimental participant (n = 21) who received the intervention and for each control participant (n = 20) who did not. Data processing using manual and automated approaches calculated bite number, average bite size, and bite frequency for each meal.

Results: A significant time by group interaction was found for bite frequency (Wilks’ Lambda = .88, F (1,39) = 5.45, p = .025, partial eta squared = .12), which decreased over time for the experimental group and increased over time for the control group. Mean bite size tended to decrease over time for the experimental group and increase over time for the control group, but these changes were not significant. Mean bite number tended to increase over time for both control and experimental groups, but these changes were not significant.

Significance and Conclusions: The EPIC intervention successfully reduced bite frequency and tended to decrease bite size. Such improvements in within-meal eating behaviors for overweight individuals may help them to reduce energy intake and manage their weight. Microstructural methodology developed in this study may be applied to other interventions for obesity and eating disorders.

Available for download on Thursday, June 13, 2024