A press release by the University of Buffalo entitled “Thoughts drive dieting plans but feelings drive dieting behavior” states that a majority of the American adult population has tried dieting. Approximately one third of adults are currently on a diet.
A whopping 60% of American adults are overweight or obese. Over a 16% of deaths are related to diet and lack of physical activity.
Marc Kiviniemi, a public health researcher at the University of Buffalo says, “There is clearly a disconnect if we have a majority of the population that has tried to lose weight and a majority of the population that is overweight. People are planning to diet and trying to diet, but that’s not translating into a successful weight-loss effort.”
Many factors determine ones weight control from biological to environmental, but behavioral management plays a big part in one’s weight control.
Dieting involves changing ones eating pattern and behave according to that new pattern. “But the factors that guide diet planning differ from those that guide actual diet behavior,” according to the results of Kiviniemi’s new study with Carolyn Brown-Kramer of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln published May,2015 in the Journal of Health Psychology.
“The crux of the disconnect is the divide between thoughts and feelings. Planning is important, but feelings matter, and focusing on feelings and understanding their role can be a great benefit,” says Kiviniemi.
Plans to change dieting behavior are a cerebral function, the understanding that weight-loss is a possibility in making better food choices. Executing the diet however becomes an issue of feelings that determine the behavior.
“If you’re sitting back conceiving a plan you may think rationally about the benefits of eating healthier foods, but when you’re in the moment, making a decision, engaging in a behavior, it’s the feelings associated with that behavior that may lead you to make different decisions from those you planned to make.”
The findings of Kiviniemi and Kramer underscore the pitfalls of extreme deprivation diets or diets that do not take into account individual preferences.
“First of all, the deprivation experience is miserable. If you didn’t associate negative feelings with it to start, you will after a few days,” says Kiviniemi. “The other thing that’s important is the distinction between things that require effort and things that are automatic.”
“Planning is an effort that demands mental energy, but feelings happen automatically. Deprivation or anything that demands a high degree of self-control is a cognitive process. If you put yourself in a position to use that energy every time you make a food choice that energy is only going to last so long.”
Kiviniemi says dieters should think about enjoyment when planning their diet strategy and executing said diet.
“In the dietary domain, eating more fruits and vegetables is fabulous advice. But if you have negative feelings about those food choices, they might not represent elements of a good plan,” says Kiviniemi. “It’s not just about eating healthy foods. It’s about eating the healthy foods you like the most.”
And let’s be frank a diet is a diet It takes a lot of energy to move good intentions into actions that is why diet planning should be based on both thoughts and feelings .
“Think seriously about how you’re going to implement the plans you make to change your behavior, and that includes not only the feeling component, but how you plan to overcome a negative reaction that might surface during a diet.”
One of the key features of successful dieting is not just knowing what we’re eating is healthful, but how we will feel eating what we know to be healthful.
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