A University of Alberta researcher has said that most people know the rules of good eating, but they quite often have a hard time applying them.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Don't snack before supper; you'll ruin your appetite.
These dietary pearls of wisdom have been dropped on children for decades.
But Robert Fisher of the University of Alberta noted that while people know the rules surrounding good eating and proper nutrition, they seem to lack one common component that often costs them the battle of the bulge: willpower.
The focus of Fisher's study, developed with Laurette Dube from McGill University, defined the lay beliefs of Americans with regards to rules about eating.
Responses such as not snacking, always eating breakfast and not wasting food were common responses.
Through a series of studies, Fisher was able to synthesize his findings into scales wherein these rules were weighed against factors such as eating behaviours, body satisfaction and social desirability.
The researcher was surprised to find that people with higher body mass indexes had stronger beliefs associated with the rules than people with lower BMIs.
Yet, he notes, that there are plenty of examples in society of people knowing what to do but acting in a contradictory manner.
He noted that what they did find in the study is that people with higher BMIs actually had stronger beliefs in the normative rules related to eating. The missing element, he said, was not following their individual belief structures.
"What we found is that if people undertake these behaviours, which are related to the norms, they tend to have a lower BMI. Having the beliefs alone is just not sufficient," said Fisher.
The study was recently published in the journal Appetite.