We’ve all done it: We decide we want to eat better and prepare a dieting plan to lose those extra pounds. But maintaining the diet is the problem. Why is that?
New information shows the intention to go on a diet isn’t the same as dietary behavior. Carolyn Brown-Kramer at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln conducted a study showing the factors that influence our dietary planning are not the same as those that influence our dietary behavior.
Marc Kiviniemi, public health researcher at the University at Buffalo, said in a statement: “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.”
Therefore, Kiviniemi said, dieters should consider enjoyment when planning a behavior change.
“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,” he said.
Feelings aren’t the only elements that come into play when it comes to weight loss. Studies have been conducted on late-night snacking and show presence of friends, late-night cravings and alcohol can tempt people into breaking their diet.
Heather McKee, of the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom, observed social and environmental factors that make people cheat. She studied 80 people who were part of a weight-loss group and who followed their own dieting plan. McKee gave participants mobile phones to record temptations and when they gave in to them.
Subjects gave in to their temptations more than 50 percent of the time and were especially vulnerable at night. The presence of others also influenced whether or not they cheated.
McKee said in a statement: “The findings help piece together the complex jigsaw surrounding the daily predictors of dietary temptations and help us to better understand how dietary temptations and lapses operate. In the fight against obesity, we need to help people become more aware of the various personal, situational and environmental factors that expose them to dietary temptations. In doing this, we can help them to develop the necessary skills to cope successfully with dietary temptations and prevent lapses.”
Why do we tend to snack at night? Researchers at Brigham Young University conducted a study that sheds light on this question.
Professors and a neuroscientist at BYU looked at how people’s brains respond to high- and low-calorie food images at different times of the day. They found images of food, especially high-calorie food, can heighten brain activity, but food isn’t as appealing in the evening, leading brain activity to decrease.
“You might over-consume at night because food is not as rewarding, at least visually at that time of day,” lead author Travis Masterson said. “It may not be as satisfying to eat at night so you eat more to try to get satisfied.”
However, researchers note they need to evaluate their findings and conduct more research to determine if late-night snacking impacts weight management.
When we go on a diet, sometimes we don’t feel satisfied after a meal, and we want more. People who are obese tend to have this problem. Scientists have developed a hormone-like compound to suppress hunger and provide a full feeling. Researchers conducted a study in which they gave obese mice the compound for two weeks, and they noticed the mice who took the compound ate less than the others.
Our metabolism can also be part of the picture. A recent study tested how genetics can play a role in weight loss. In the metabolic unit of the Phoenix Epidemiology and Clinical Research Branch (PECRB) at the National Institute of Health in Arizona, researchers studied the metabolism of 12 obese men and women. Researchers established each participant’s metabolism after a day of fasting and had each of them go on a diet for six weeks that involved a 50 percent calorie reduction. Participants whose metabolism decreased during fasting lost less weight than other participants, showing some had a faster metabolism than others.
“When people who are obese decrease the amount of food they eat, metabolic responses vary greatly, with a ‘thrifty’ metabolism possibly contributing to less weight lost,” Susanne Votruba, author of the study, said in a statement.
Researchers need to conduct more studies on how to overcome a stubborn metabolism, but they are optimistic on the matter.
“The results corroborate the idea that some people who are obese may have to work harder to lose weight due to metabolic differences,” said lead author Dr. Martin Reinhardt. “But biology is not destiny. Balanced diet and regular physical activity over a long period can be very effective for weight loss.”
Obesity can start at an early age, which is why parents should pay attention to their children’s weight. However, a new study shows parents think their children are at an appropriate weight when they are actually overweight. These findings are important because parents who notice their children are overweight can help them lose weight, helping to decrease childhood obesity.
“We need effective strategies to encourage clinician discussions with parents about appropriate weight for their child. This will be critical for childhood weight management and obesity prevention,” said senior study author Dr. Jian Zhang in a statement.