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STUDY: Choosing low-calorie foods--can help people who just can't seem to resist the temptation to eat
JOURNAL: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2002;75:476-483
AUTHORS: Dr. Susan B. Roberts
ABSTRACT: A person's degree of inhibition when it comes to chowing down on snacks and goodies is tied to his or her likelihood of being overweight, according to researchers at Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts.
COMMENTARY: The good news is that using some restraint--for example by choosing low-calorie foods--can help people who just can't seem to resist the temptation to eat.
The reasons why some people are able to stay trim while others gain weight remain unclear, Roberts and her colleagues note in the current issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
To investigate the role of eating behavior in weight gain, the researchers evaluated three eating behaviors--restraint, disinhibition and hunger--as well as the weight and height of 638 healthy, non-smoking women aged 55 to 65.
Restraint is the ability to consciously restrict food intake in order to maintain weight or lose pounds. Disinhibition is the inclination to overeat when tempting food is available, or to overeat in the presence of factors that can loosen inhibitions, such as emotional distress, regardless of whether or not a person is hungry. Hunger is a person's sensitivity to feelings indicating a need for food.
The researchers found that the higher a person's degree of disinhibition, the higher their weight.
The main finding of the study is that disinhibited eating is very strongly associated with obesity.
Being disinhibited also predicts adult weight gain--30 pounds more over 25 years up to age about 60 years.
However, being a restrained eater also helps offset the effect of disinhibition. Restrained eaters are those who count calories (and) tend to shop for low-fat foods. So these behaviors seem to help some, but not as much as not overindulging when you don't need to.
Roberts recommends that people who are concerned about their weight fight the urge to gobble up all the food that is offered to them. Instead, Roberts tells people to think about whether or not they are hungry and not to assume that if they overeat at one meal, they will eat less later.
If you really want (the food) but you are not hungry, take a really small piece...(and) don't finish large portions just because they are there. Save them for another day.