Tackling sabotaging cognitive processes to reduce overeating; expectancy violation during food cue exposure

Ghislaine Schyns, Anne Roefs, Anita Jansen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal(Systematic) Review article peer-review

6 Citations (Web of Science)


Calorie-reduced diets to combat obesity do work, but they only work when one sticks to the diet and the - relatively small - weight loss usually is short-lived. It is argued that calorie-reduced diets should converge with enduring lifestyle changes: the diet is just the start of a lifelong new eating pattern. Getting people to change their lifestyles forever could increase the amount of lost weight and prevent relapse. However, a real behavior change is difficult, especially when longstanding habits are involved and the change is intended for the rest of life. It is argued here that adherence to a new lifestyle is much easier if sabotaging cognitive processes are tackled. An overview is given of four studies into the effects of exposure to reduce appetitive responding to tempting food cues. A robust effect of exposure on the ad lib intake of exposed foods was found in all studies: participants ate significantly less of exposed foods after exposure compared to control interventions but no generalization to non-exposed foods was found. The reduced food intake after exposure was associated with a violation of overeating expectancies. It is discussed that lifestyle interventions might benefit from techniques that are really able to change longstanding habits. Specifically, the violation of overeating expectancies during exposure seems to be critical for controlled eating and should therefore be part of lifestyle interventions for obesity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number112924
Number of pages5
JournalPhysiology & Behavior
Early online date24 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2020


  • Obesity
  • Food cue reactivity
  • Extinction, Exposure
  • Expectancy violation
  • Habituation
  • FEAR

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