Thoughts drive our dieting plans but feelings drive dieting behavior, suggests a new study.
A majority of American adults say they've tried dieting to lose weight at some point in their lives, and at any given time, about one-third of the adult population say they're currently dieting. Yet 60% of American adults are clinically overweight or obese and more than 16% of deaths nationwide are related to diet and physical activity.
University at Buffalo's Marc Kiviniemi said that there is clearly a disconnect if a majority of the population that has tried to lose weight and a majority of the population that is overweight, adding that people are planning to diet and trying to diet, but that's not translating into a successful weight loss effort.
Kiviniemi added that the crux of the disconnect is the divide between thoughts and feelings. Planning is important, but feelings matter, and focusing on feelings and understanding their role can be a great benefit.
Plans to change behavior are a function of thoughts, the belief that weight loss is possible by making better food choices, but when it comes to making a food choice and deciding to execute the plan, feelings guide behavior.
"If you're sitting back conceiving a plan you may think rationally about the benefits of eating healthier foods, but when you're in the moment, making a decision, engaging in a behavior, it's the feelings associated with that behavior that may lead you to make different decisions from those you planned to make."
The study highlight the shortcomings of deprivation diets or diets based on food choices that ignore people's preferences and so Kiviniemi says dieters should seriously consider enjoyment when framing and shaping a behavior change.
Kiviniemi suggested to think seriously about how you're going to implement the plans you make to change your behavior, and that includes not only the feeling component, but how you plan to overcome a negative reaction that might surface during a diet.
The study appears in the Journal of Health Psychology