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"I will fast … tomorrow": Intentions to restrict eating and actual restriction in daily life and their person-level predictors

Reichenberger, Julia; Smyth, Joshua M.; Kuppens, Peter; Blechert, Jens

Objective. Dietary restraint is a common, yet controversial practice to tackle overweight. Yet,
despite good intentions to reduce food intake, most restraint-based diets fail to produce long term
weight loss. A better understanding of the naturalistic course of daily dieting intentions and their
effectiveness in guiding subsequent eating behavior are therefore needed.
Method. In two studies, participants (n=49 and n=59) reported both their state intention to restrict
eating on the next day, as well as their actual restriction on that day via smartphone-based
evening reports of 12 and 10 days, respectively. Intention-behavior gap scores were calculated as
differences between intention at t1 (e.g. evening intention Monday for restriction Tuesday) and
restriction at t2 (evening report of actual restraint on Tuesday). Restriction-related trait
questionnaires served as predictors of general intention or restriction level, whereas several traitlevel
disinhibiting eating style questionnaires served as predictors for intention-behavior gaps
(difference scores).
Results. Daily intentions to restrict were rated higher than the daily actual restrictive behavior.
Participants with higher scores on restriction-related questionnaires (restrained eating, dieting,
reversed intuitive eating) showed higher levels of daily state intention and restriction. Larger state
intention-behavior gaps, by contrast, were seen in participants scoring high on trait-level
disinhibiting eating styles (emotional eating, stress eating and food craving).
Discussion. The results point to potential risk factors of diet failure in everyday life: emotional,
stress eating, and food craving are disinhibiting traits that seem to increase intention-behavior
gaps. These findings can inform individualized weight-loss interventions: individuals with
disinhibiting traits might need additional guidance to avoid potentially frustrating diet failures.

Embargoed Access

Files are currently under embargo but will be publicly accessible after May 13, 2021.

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