Too tempting to resist? Past success at weight control rather than dietary restraint determines exposure-induced disinhibited eating

K. Houben*, C. Nederkoorn, A. Jansen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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As the prevalence of obesity is increasing, many people resort to dieting to achieve a healthy body weight. Such dietary restraint has been suggested to cause counterproductive effects leading to disinhibited eating. However, it is more likely that dietary restraint is a by-product of previous difficulties in weight control and disinhibited eating. If so, disinhibition should be related more strongly to unsuccessful weight control than dietary restraint. This possibility was examined in the present study. Participants were exposed to palatable food or to neutral objects. Before and after exposure, we measured craving, general inhibitory control and inhibition of food-related responses with the Stop-Signal Task (SST), and food consumption during a taste test. Results showed that exposure increased craving in both successful and unsuccessful weight regulators. People who were successful at controlling their weight, however, were better able to regulate this temptation compared to unsuccessful weight regulators: while exposure to palatable food reduced inhibitory control over food-related responses and increased food consumption in unsuccessful weight regulators, successful weight regulators did not show such disinhibition. Dietary restraint did not influence any of these findings. Further, the exposure-induced difference in inhibition between successful and unsuccessful weight regulators was specific for food-related responses, as regulatory success did not influence general inhibitory control. Thus, while successful and unsuccessful weight regulators seem equally tempted by palatable food, those who are successful in controlling their weight seem better able to resist these temptations by exerting inhibitory control over appetitive responses toward palatable food. (C) 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)550-555
Number of pages6
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2012


  • Dieting
  • Self-regulation
  • Exposure
  • Inhibitory control
  • Stop-Signal Task
  • US

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