Even before a strict diet starts, they’re typically doomed to fail. With the strategies adopted by most dieters – swapping food favourites with less desirable alternatives – it’s no mystery why people drop their diet in less than a week.
You don’t need to go cold turkey on appetizing meals, according to a new American study. Published in Psychology & Marketing, they found that’s what dieters with low self-control trend towards. But for everyone else, a successful diet breaks the three unwritten rules of dieting: restricting enjoyable foods, trying to avoid certain foods altogether and not allowing any occasional treats.
Restriction and avoidance strategies were documented amongst 542 participants by researchers at Baylor University. They focused on the demographic with low self-control, who were unsurprisingly less successful in controlling their emotions to reach their health goals.
The most glaring difference between the group with self-control vs. the group without it was their view of healthy foods. When asked what healthy foods should be eaten as part of a diet, those with low self-control chose foods that were the picture of health – many being choices they’d find unappetizing to eat regularly, like Brussels sprouts. Those with high self-control instead opted for foods that are healthy, but they still enjoy eating. Similarly with unhealthy foods, the low self-control group chose their absolute favourite foods, or ones that would be a struggle to cut. The high control participants chose foods they liked, but could reasonably forgo.
From the study’s results, the researchers suggest that dieters can make a list of the foods that they enjoy eating, then favour the healthiest options. They feel a little indulgence will keep you on your diet, rather than sticking to unappealing ‘magic’ foods and ignoring your favourite ‘poisonous’ ones.