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Five Unique Experiences of Diet Culture

Dietary Restraint Theory

DRT describes what happens when fastidious dieters go off their diet or break their food rules.

Researchers: Janet Polivy, C Peter Herman Predictable Eating Patterns Among Dieters

1. The "What the Hell" Effect

Dieters tend to evaluate their successes and failures of eating in terms of the current day. Success requires getting through the day with no violation of the diet. Even just thinking that you have blown your diet is enough to trigger the consumption of more food, regardless of hunger or fullness levels. (restraint-overeating cycle)

2. Perception

Restrained eaters are likely to overeat even if they only perceived that they violated one of their food rules. Many dieters have rules about not eating high calorie foods, so the researchers set up a sneaky taste-test study. Dieters were told they would be sampling a high-calorie food (when it was not). The perception of blowing their diet was enough to trigger overeating.

3. Anticipation of Food Restriction - "Diet Starts Monday!"

A study of chocolate lovers found that when a chocolate restriction was imposed for three weeks, it triggered an increase in their chocolate consumption before and after the restriction period. For many dieters, the anticipation of starting a new diet is enough to trigger overeating- a farewell to food feast. Consequently, restrained eaters do not really end up eating less food overall. Researchers suggest that a high restraint eating score (meaning a high degree of restrained eating) seems to more accurately reflect eating related guilt rather than actual food consumed.

4. The Irony of Thought Suppressions

A large body of research indicates that thought suppression is ineffective, even counterproductive. “Don’t think of a white bear.” Is an example of thought suppression. Similarly, researchers asked people to think aloud in a stream of consciousness manner while trying not to think of a white bear. This instruction triggered a rebound effect and the bear was mentioned at least once and had more frequent thoughts than the control group which was given the opposite instruction “Think of a white bear”. Trying to suppress food- related thoughts (ie: not allowed to have a certain food) not only increases thinking about the food but increases eating behaviour.

5. The Forbidden Fruit Phenomenon

Don’t eat the red fruit. The allure of forbidden food is heightened in non-dieters as well. A group of children were told they could not eat the red M&M candies but could eat as many of the yellow M&Ms as they wanted. Guess which candy got the most attention and consumption? This study has been repeated with fruits and sweets, all leading to an increase in both of these foods. A body of research has shown that the more a parent restricts his or her child’s eating, the more it creates a rebound effect, causing the child to eat more of the forbidden food and to becoming more disconnected from his or her body. This leads to the eating in the absence of hunger and overeating. That child is more likely to grow up with an increased risk of emotional eating and higher BMI, especially women.

Let me know if you can relate to any of these in the comments!!

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