Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Sticking to diets is about more than willpower -- complexity matters

Date:
January 15, 2010
Source:
Indiana University
Summary:
Cognitive scientists compared the dieting behavior of women following two radically different diets. The more complicated people found their diet plans, the sooner they were likely to bail. "For people on a more complex diet that involves keeping track of quantities and items eaten, their subjective impression of the difficulty of the diet can lead them to give up on it," said one researcher.

Many people think the success of dieting, seemingly a national obsession following the excesses and resolutions of the holiday season, depends mostly on how hard one tries -- on willpower and dedication. While this does matter, new research has found that a much more subtle aspect of the diets themselves can also have a big influence on the pounds shed -- namely, the perceived complexity of a diet plan's rules and requirements.

Related Articles


Cognitive scientists from Indiana University and the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin compared the dieting behavior of women following two radically different diet plans and found that the more complicated people thought their diet plan was, the sooner they were likely to drop it.

"For people on a more complex diet that involves keeping track of quantities and items eaten, their subjective impression of the difficulty of the diet can lead them to give up on it," reported Peter Todd, professor in IU's Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences.

Jutta Mata, now a professor of psychology at Stanford University, said this effect holds even after controlling for the influence of important social-cognitive factors including self-efficacy, the belief that one is capable of achieving a goal like sticking to a diet regimen to control one's weight.

"Even if you believe you can succeed, thinking that the diet is cognitively complex can undermine your efforts," she said.

Dieting is not all in one's head -- environment matters, too, the professors say. The physical environment has to be set up properly, such as putting snack foods out of sight to avoid mindless eating. But the cognitive environment, they say, must also be appropriately constructed, by choosing diet rules that that one finds easy to remember and follow.

For people interested in following a diet plan, Mata suggests they take a look at several diet plans with an eye toward how many rules the plans have and how many things need to be how many things need to be kept in mind.

"If they decide to go with a more complex diet, which could be more attractive for instance if it allows more flexibility, they should evaluate how difficult they find doing the calculations and monitoring their consumption," she said. "If they find it very difficult, the likelihood that they will prematurely give up the diet is higher and they should try to find a different plan."

About the study: The study examined both the objective and subjective complexity of two diet plans. Brigitte, the cognitively simpler of the two, is a popular German recipe diet that provides shopping lists for the dieters, thus requiring participants to simply follow the provided meal plan. Weight Watchers assigns point values to every food and instructs participants to eat only a certain number of points per day. The 390 women involved were recruited from German-language Internet chat rooms dealing with weight management and were already in the midst of using one of the two diet plans. They answered questionnaires at the beginning, mid-point and end of an eight-week period.

While losing weight initially isn't rocket science, keeping it off remains a challenge to dieters. It generally is believed that the longer people can adhere to their diet plan, the more successful they will be long-term with their weight loss maintenance. And the more like rocket science one's diet plan feels, Todd and Mata report, the less likely that long-term adherence and maintenance is to succeed.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Indiana University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Mata et al. When weight management lasts: Lower perceived rule complexity increases adherence. Appetite, 2009; DOI: 10.1016/j.appet.2009.09.004

Cite This Page:

Indiana University. "Sticking to diets is about more than willpower -- complexity matters." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 January 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100112085516.htm>.
Indiana University. (2010, January 15). Sticking to diets is about more than willpower -- complexity matters. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100112085516.htm
Indiana University. "Sticking to diets is about more than willpower -- complexity matters." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100112085516.htm (accessed October 25, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Academic Scandal Shocks UNC

Academic Scandal Shocks UNC

AP (Oct. 23, 2014) A scandal involving bogus classes and inflated grades at the University of North Carolina was bigger than previously reported, a new investigation found. (Oct. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Working Mother Getaway: Beaches Turks & Caicos

Working Mother Getaway: Beaches Turks & Caicos

Working Mother (Oct. 22, 2014) Feast your eyes on this gorgeous family-friendly resort. Video provided by Working Mother
Powered by NewsLook.com
What Your Favorite Color Says About You

What Your Favorite Color Says About You

Buzz60 (Oct. 22, 2014) We all have one color we love to wear, and believe it or not, your color preference may reveal some of your character traits. In celebration of National Color Day, Krystin Goodwin (@kyrstingoodwin) highlights what your favorite colors may say about you. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) A medical team has for the first time given a man the ability to walk again after transplanting cells from his brain onto his severed spinal cord. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins