Eating With Friends And Family Tempts Dieters to Overeat

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Fast FoodIf you’re dieting, you’ll have more success discarding those extra pounds or maintaining your weight if you avoid eating with others in a social setting, new research suggests. Researchers presented the findings at a conference hosted by the American Heart Association.

The study found that people who are trying to shed pounds or maintain their current weight are more tempted to overeat when partaking of food in a social setting like a restaurant.

The study authors used smartphones and a specially designed application to gather information from about 150 dieters (90 percent female) as they performed everyday tasks for a year. This smartphone technique has been used to study other topics including addiction, pain, work stress, and asthma. It helps the researchers evaluate emotions and behaviors in real-time and in natural settings.

The study subjects tried to control their calorie intake. Women weighing less than 200 pounds had a daily limit of 1,200 calories, and men at that weight 1,500 calories. Participants who weighed more than 200 pounds tried to limit their intake to 1,500 calories for women and 1,800 for men. Fat was restricted to about 25 percent of total calories.

The participants reported their surroundings, how they were feeling, and if they were tempted to stray from their diet or actually gave in to temptation. Researchers classified temptations as eating a food or quantity of a food that violates a weight loss diet. For example, eating a generous serving of a calorie-heavy food such as French fries or cheesecake or several pieces of candy at the office qualified as temptations.

The study found that dieters who dined with others or in a restaurant were 60 percent more likely to “cheat” on their diet.

Although the subjects were exposed to fewer temptations in their own or someone else’s home compared with a restaurant, their risk of eating unhealthy foods remained at 60 percent if they weren’t eating alone. The likelihood that they would give in to dietary temptations was lower in other locations. At work, it was about 40 percent and in a car about 30 percent. When alone, dieters fell off their diet almost half the time.

“Research into understanding and preventing weight regain is vital for improving the public health,” said Lora E. Burke, Ph.D., M.P.H., study lead author and professor of nursing in the Department of Health and Community Systems at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania. “Helping an individual anticipate challenges and problem-solve high-risk situations can empower them to stay on track with their weight loss/weight maintenance plan.”

This data can be delivered electronically to dieters in real-time when they need it to support them in their efforts.

Source: Burke LE, et al. Eating Out May Be Too Much Of A Temptation for Dieters. American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention/Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health 2017 Scientific Sessions. March 7, 2017.