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Obese women equal to average sized women -gratification delay

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Overweight and Obese Women Are Equally Capable of the Impulse Control That Lean Women Exhibit
Aug. 30, 2013 Dieters call it willpower; social scientists call it delayed gratification.

It's the ability to delay an immediate reward in favor of a bigger future reward, for example, having a slimmer body in a few months versus the hot fudge sundae now.

University at Buffalo research published last month in the journal Appetite now shows that behavioral interventions that improve delay of gratification can work just as well with overweight and obese women as with lean women.

"This research is certainly welcome news for people who have struggled to lose weight, because it shows that when people are taught to imagine, or simulate the future, they can improve their ability to delay gratification," says obesity expert, Leonard H. Epstein, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor in the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, who was senior author on the research.

The research is part of a field called prospection, the process by which people can project themselves into the future, by mentally simulating future events.

Some of the most famous research done on delay of gratification includes experiments done at Stanford University in the 1960s and 1970s, where children were given an opportunity to either eat a single snack, such as a marshmallow now, or, if they waited a period of time, they could be rewarded with multiple snacks. Follow-up studies found that in general, those who were able to wait were more responsible and successful in their adult lives.

Epstein notes that many people have difficulty resisting the impulse for immediate gratification. Instead, they do something called delay discounting, in which they discount future rewards in favor of smaller, immediate rewards. This tendency is associated with greater consumption of highly caloric, ready-to-eat foods.
It has been speculated that if people could modify delay discounting, they would be more successful at losing weight.

"Now we have developed a treatment for this," says Epstein. "We can teach people how to reduce delay discounting, where they learn how to mentally simulate the future in order to moderate their behavior in the present."

The UB researchers evaluated how much delay discounting participants engaged in using a hypothetical test that promised different amounts of money available either now or in the future. While the amount available in the future remained $100, the amount available immediately decreased during each test, eventually falling as low as $1.

Participants were then asked to think about future events that would occur during the time periods involved in the monetary test. So if they were choosing between $95 now and $100 in six months, they would be instructed to think about the most vivid event that would be happening to them six months from now, for example, a birthday party.

A control group was asked, instead, to think during the monetary test of vivid scenes from a Pinocchio story they had read.

The UB researchers found that those who engaged in the future thinking exercise were able to reduce delay discounting and that there were few differences between the lean and the overweight and obese women. emoticon

The study looked at 24 lean women and 24 overweight and obese women, all of whom underwent several behavioral assessments to determine differences in each person's motivation level, their perspective on time and how much they sought out fun and responded to rewards.

In a study published earlier this year, Epstein and his colleagues demonstrated that overweight and obese women ate less when they were imagining themselves in enjoyable future scenarios and reduced their inclination to engage in delay discounting.

"In the current study, we show that episodic future thinking works equally well in overweight and obese women in comparison to lean women," says Epstein. "That's important since several studies have shown that overweight/obese women are more impulsive.

The fact that projecting oneself into the future and imagining future scenarios works equally well for lean and overweight/obese women is important for designing interventions to reduce impulsive decision making in women who need to lose weight." emoticon

Tinuke Oluyomi Daniel, a doctoral student in the UB Department of Pediatrics and the the Department of Community Health and Health Behavior in the School of Public Health and Health Professions, is first author on the study; Christina M. Stanton, research assistant, is co-author.
The research was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health.

Member Comments About This Blog Post:

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1STATEOFDENIAL 9/1/2013 4:50AM

    The marshmallow test with kids is awesome. I've read/heard about it before. It is not perfectly accurate, but as a general rule kids who were able to wait for 5-10 minutes while the parent was out of the room and got the 2 marshmallows did better in school, went to college to prepare for a more intense career, and did better at budgeting money - among other measures - than kids who chose to eat the 1 marshmallow right away. The cool thing is, the study can be replicated by any parent to find out more about their child's motiviations then use the information to help their child have better success in the future. For instance, if a kid chooses to wait the parent can explain to the child that they will have many choices to make and that by putting in the effort they can obtain better rewards. If a kid chooses to eat the single marshmallow right away, the parent can find games and toys that help the child learn delayed gratification (a very simple example would be putting a favorite toy inside a container in a larger container in a larger container, etc and the child must open all the containers to get the toy). Over time, the child will learn!

A fun story for you: when I was a kid getting home from trick-or-treating, I'd separate the candy into the best kinds and the blah kinds. I'd eat the kinds I liked least first, saving the best for last. Unfortunately, my favorites were often not so good months later when I finally got to them. With my health issues, things have changed. I've had so many things taken away that now I'm giving in to the pleasure more than the delay because everything changes so often I don't know if I'd ever be able to enjoy the pleasures quite as much or even at all in a short time.

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ARTJAC 9/1/2013 3:14AM


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2HAMSDIET 8/31/2013 11:14PM

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STITCH4EVER 8/31/2013 4:14PM


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KNYAGENYA 8/31/2013 2:13PM


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CAROL3SAN 8/31/2013 2:04PM

    Thanks for sharing Chris. This is a lot of info, but so very important. I hope I will learn once and for all how to eat sensibly everyday without going back on a binge at night.

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BECKYSFRIEND 8/31/2013 11:48AM

    very interesting

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NANCYPAT1 8/31/2013 11:24AM

    That supports the idea that I have had for a long time that obesity and overweight ARE NOT ABOUT WILLPOWER - we are not weak in willpower but there are other issues involved.

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DSBRIDE 8/31/2013 11:15AM

    Wow! I found this very interesting. As I got older I found I didn't want to wait for anything. Almost like time was running out and if I didn't get it now, I won't ever get it. I'm going to try some of those tricks and see if they help. Thanks for sharing.

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SANDRALEET 8/31/2013 10:46AM

    We can learn to eat in moderation food A life style and not go back latter to old way No food is bad put moderation I cookie One inch square cake ones in a while will not kill us Eat slow and enjoy each bite Do not eat fast right size portions Stop when full.

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