Flexible Responses Boost Healthy Food Attitudes

Summary: A flexible response to food cues significantly improves attitudes towards high-calorie foods among women with controlled eating habits. The research involved 78 women, employing tests like the Implicit Association Test and the Food Stop-Signal Task to assess their subconscious attitudes and impulse control towards food.

Only the group practicing flexible responses showed a positive shift in their attitude towards high-calorie foods, without increased anxiety or consumption. This approach could offer a new method to help those with disordered eating patterns by promoting balanced reactions to food stimuli.

Key Facts:

  1. The study specifically targeted women who exhibit restrained eating behaviors, identifying participants through the Dutch Eating Behavior Questionnaire.
  2. Flexible response training led to improved attitudes towards high-calorie foods in controlled eaters, unlike traditional methods that may increase anxiety.
  3. This method also showed potential in reducing extreme eating behaviors, as evidenced by more balanced responses in a bogus taste test.

Source: Hebrew University of Jerusalem

A new study led by PhD student Shir Berebbi and team under the guidance of researcher Prof. Eyal Kalanthroff at the Psychology Department at the Hebrew University unveiled findings indicating that women who watch their diet can significantly enhance their attitudes toward high-calorie foods through a flexible response to food-related stimuli.

The findings were clear: the group that used the flexible response method had a big increase in liking high-calorie foods after the program. The other groups didn’t show any noticeable change in how they felt about food.

This shows a salad.
Restrained eaters typically maintain a chronic avoidance of eating to control weight, leading to a negative emotional response towards food. Credit: Neuroscience News

This shows that when people with controlled eating habits balance how they react to food cues, they can feel better about what they eat.

Restrained eaters typically maintain a chronic avoidance of eating to control weight, leading to a negative emotional response towards food. Previous attempts to disrupt this pattern by encouraging the complete elimination of inhibitory food responses resulted in increased food consumption but also elevated food-related anxiety.

The study involved 78 female participants identified through the Dutch Eating Behavior Questionnaire for their restrained eating patterns, characterized by chronic dieting and food intake control.

Researchers used psychological tests like the Implicit Association Test (IAT) and Food Stop-Signal Task (F-SST) to assess subconscious food attitudes and impulse control. A bogus taste test measures actual food consumption.

The study also introduced a flexible food response task, where participants had to either respond to or inhibit their response to different food stimuli, pioneering new approaches to understanding eating behaviors.

The results were prominent as only the group exposed to the flexible response protocol showed a significant improvement in positive attitudes toward high-calorie foods after the intervention, with no observable changes in the negative attitudes among the other groups.

This outcome suggests that a balanced approach to responding and inhibiting food cues can foster more positive emotional reactions to food among those with restrained eating behaviors.

Moreover, the flexible response training demonstrated promising potential in moderating how participants engaged in a seemingly unrelated bogus taste test, showcasing more balanced eating behaviors compared to other groups.

“Our findings are pivotal as they suggest a new therapeutic avenue that could potentially help individuals with disordered eating patterns to redefine their attitudes towards food,” said PhD student Shir Berebbi.

“By advocating for flexibility rather than rigid response or inhibition, we can support more sustainable and healthy eating behaviors.”

This study offers a fresh perspective on treatment and support for individuals struggling with restrained eating and proposes that encouraging a balanced approach to food cues may prove more beneficial than methods that promote extreme responses.

About this diet and eating disorders research news

Author: Danae Marx
Source: Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Contact: Danae Marx – Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Image: The image is credited to Neuroscience News

Original Research: Open access.
“Fostering positive attitudes toward food in individuals with restrained eating: the impact of flexible food-related inhibition” by Eyal Kalanthroff et al. Journal of Eating Disorders


Abstract

Fostering positive attitudes toward food in individuals with restrained eating: the impact of flexible food-related inhibition

Individuals exhibiting restrained eating behaviors demonstrate increased inhibitory control when exposed to food-related stimuli, indicating the presence of an automatic food-inhibition association.

Existing literature proposes that this association contributes to the devaluation of food within this population.

Efforts to disrupt this association by promoting the complete elimination of the inhibition of food responses have resulted in increased food consumption but have also led to increased food-related anxiety in individuals with restrained eating behaviors.

In the current investigation, we investigated whether a novel flexible food response/inhibition computerized task could produce favorable changes in attitudes toward food in individuals with restrained eating.

We randomly assigned 78 females who engaged in restrained eating to one of three training groups. In the flexible response/inhibition group, participants were instructed to equally inhibit or respond to food stimuli.

In the response group, participants consistently responded to food stimuli, while in the inhibition group, participants consistently inhibited their response to food cues.

Implicit attitudes toward food were assessed both before and after the manipulation. To examine the stability of the effect of the training, participants also engaged in a seemingly unrelated bogus taste test.

Our results revealed that only the flexible response/inhibition group demonstrated a significant improvement in positive attitudes toward high-calorie foods after eating, while there were no observable changes in negative attitudes among the other two groups.

These findings suggest that promoting a balance between the responding and inhibiting responses to food stimuli can increase positive attitudes toward food among individuals with restrained eating.

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