Eating Behaviour

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Eating behaviour

Failure of dieting

Role of denial

Attempting to supress or deny a thought frequently has the opposite effect, making it more prominent.

Wenger et al – asked one group of participants not to think about a white bear, but to ring a bell if they did. Then asked a second group of participants to think about the white bear and to also ring the bell when they did. He found that the group asked not to think about the bear rang the bell more.

Theory of ironic processes of mental control – it represents a paradoxical effect of thought control i.e. denial often backfires

Central to any diet strategy is the decision not to eat certain foods. This results in a state of denial. As dieters try to supress thoughts of foods deemed as ‘forbidden’. This increases the want for these foods. As soon as food is denied it becomes more attractive.

Soetens et al – rebound effect – After you have finished suppression, more likely to think about food.

Restrain Theory

Disinhibition – restrained eating has become synonymous with dieting, but Herman and Mack’s restraint theory suggests that attempting not to eat may actually increase the probability of over eating. It is the loss of control that causes overeating.

Wardle & Beadles – randomly assigned obese women to one of three groups for 7 weeks – restrained eating, exercise or non-treatment. Women in the restrained group ate more than the women in the other groups. boundary model – This model explains the failure of dieting in terms of the greater distance between hunger and satiety in dieters. It takes dieters longer to feel hungry therefore more food to reach a state of satiety. 

Lipoprotein lipase (LPL)

Dieting may be ineffective if an individual has high levels of LPL as it makes the body more effective at storing calories

Meaning restraint or denial alone would not help you lose weight.

Sex hormones play a vital role in LPL activity – Oestrogen inhibits LPL activity so the menopause can lead to weight gain – meaning dieting for post-menopausal women is difficult.

Cultural differences

Some cultures may find it hard to diet and have a natural inclination to obesity

 Misra et al – Asian children and adolescents have a higher central fat mass


Dieting success

Fending off boredom

Redden – Dieting is hard to stick to because of repetition. – If you focus on the detail of your meal you are less likely to be bored – Jelly bean experiment – 135 Ps – 22 jelly beans each one at a time. As each bean was dispensed, information about the bean was shown on a screen. One group saw general information and the other group saw specific details. Ps got bored with eating beans faster is they saw general information and enjoyed more if they saw specific information

Relapse prevention

Identifying situations where relapse is likely. Learn to ‘refocus’ if and when the situations arise =


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