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Abstract

The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of an environmental cue (bowl size) on food consumption and to examine the influence of exercise on that relationship. This cross-sectional study included 286 college students attending a large Midwestern University. Upon arrival at an ice cream social for university students, participants were randomly given a small (8 oz) or large (12 oz) bowl and a 4-page survey addressing exercise and eating habits. At the social, participants were invited to dish themselves as much ice cream as they wanted and the amount consumed was determined by weighing the bowl with ice cream before and after consumption using a scale that measured to the nearest tenth of a gram. Participants who were provided the 12 oz bowl scooped and consumed significantly more ice cream than the participants provided the 8 oz bowl. Regular exercisers consumed more ice cream than non-regular exercisers regardless of statistical control for bowl size and body weight. Those participants who reported exercising previously that day also consumed significantly more ice cream than those not previously exercising; however, the difference was no longer significant after controlling for bowl size and body weight. Environment cues significantly influence food consumption and exercise may also influence subsequent food consumption but further research is needed.