Putting Foods Off-Limits Can Sabotage Your Diet

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Do you ever notice that as soon as you decide a certain food is "off-limits", it's the food you crave more than any other? For me, it's cake- specifically, yellow cake with lots of white icing. My husband's birthday is coming up, and I always make his favorite cake (which happens to be yellow cake with white icing.) He's content to eat one or two pieces, and then be done with it. I tell myself that I shouldn't eat any of it, because the less I have, the less I'll want. But as soon as I do that, I find myself thinking about how good it would taste, and usually I end up caving in and indulging more than I should. A new study shows that restricting certain foods increases the positive feelings associated with those foods. The more you make a food off-limits, the more tasty and delicious it sounds.

The results, published in the journal Appetite, were based on two different studies. The first study compared whether restrained eaters differed from unrestrained eaters in the positive and negative associations of high calorie food, compared to low calorie food. The second study just looked at whether restrained eaters differed from unrestrained eaters in their feelings about high calorie foods. Both studies found that there was no difference in negative associations with high calorie foods, whether they were restricted or not. But restricting foods did seem to increase the positive associations associated with these foods.

I think this goes along with the whole "diet" versus "healthy eating" mentality. In general, I consider myself to be a healthy eater. But if someone told me I could never have another piece of birthday cake, it would be tough to accept. Instead, I do have those treats from time to time. I just try to make sure they are in moderation and not an every day indulgence. Then the foods I really love aren't built up to be some kind of sinful temptation that sounds so delicious, if only I could have it. Setting myself up for that kind of deprivation increases my chances of failure because I can't stick with it forever. Everyone deserves a treat now and then.

What do you think? Do you try to make room for the occasional treat in your diet, or does that make you more likely to start slipping back into your old habits?