Want to diet successfully? Work on self-control, eat healthy treats

  • AFP, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jul 19, 2016 11:04 IST
Dieters should focus on healthy foods that they enjoy rather than banning favourite treats. (Istock)

Most diets are doomed to fail as dieters adopt wrong strategies such as excluding their favourite foods and replacing them with other less desirable options instead, say researchers.

According to an American study, published in the journal Psychology & Marketing, this strategy tends to be chosen by dieters with low levels of self-control.

Read: Forget dieting, just add these slimming foods to your diet

When it comes to dieting, three often-followed rules can set people up for failure: restricting enjoyable foods, trying to avoid certain foods altogether and not allowing any occasional treats.

Among the 542 participants studied by researchers at Baylor University in Texas, USA, restriction and avoidance strategies were particularly observed among people with low levels of self-control. Such individuals are generally less successful in mastering their emotions and in reaching their goals.

When considering unhealthy foods that should be avoided when dieting, participants with low self-control first thought of the foods that they particularly enjoy, such as their favourite snacks and most tempting treats. Those with high levels of self-control thought of foods that they like but could reasonably forgo.

When asked what healthy foods should be eaten as part of a diet, the low self-control participants thought of foods they dislike or find unpalatable, such as Brussels sprouts, whereas those with high levels of self-control thought of foods they enjoy eating, such as strawberries.

Read: Exercise or diet? Here’s what will help you keep obesity at bay

In conclusion, the researchers suggest that dieters could try making a list of the foods that they enjoy eating, then favour the healthiest options.

For the researchers, this approach could be much more effective than trying to stick to a menu of supposedly “magical” foods while excluding other “poisonous” options.

The study was published in the journal Psychology & Marketing.

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