Explanations of Successful and Failed Dieting

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Explanations of Successful and Failed Dieting

The first explanation for the failure of dieting is causal analysis of overeating. It was argued by Polivy and Herman (85) that there is a causal link between dieting and overeating, “restraint not only precedes overeating but contributes to it causally”. This is explained through the Boundary Model which suggests that an individual exceeds the cognitive boundary for food that they have imposed on themselves through their dieting this leads to the “what the hell effect” leading to the individual to overeat according to the physiological boundary.

The second explanation is known as mood modification. This was also proposed by Polivy and Herman and suggests that failed dieting could be explained by the fact that eating can mask negative mood by temporarily elevating mood. It is suggested that the cause of negative mood is further masked, as individuals can then attribute their low mood to overeating, a controllable problem, masking any potential uncontrollable issues.

Another explanation is the role of denial. Wegner suggests that attempts to supress thoughts about eating and food can paradoxically make those thoughts more prominent in a person’s mind. This has been referred to as the “theory of ironic processes of mental control”. When food is denied during dieting and becomes forbidden, this is translated into increased eating due to the fact that this occupies their thoughts more.
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Lastly, Neural/ Hormonal factors can explain failed dieting. Recent research has revealed individual differences in the amount of neurological activity associated with exposure to desirable foods, which might predict subsequent eating behaviours (Beaver et al). It could be speculated that such neurological variability affects motivation to eat desirable foods, and ultimately the probability of an individual restraining their eating during a diet. Beaver’s findings would imply that failed dieting might be caused by excessive activity in the reward centres of the brain.

It has been suggested that motivation is a prime factor in determining success in dieting ...

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