According to researchers at the University in Boston, a person's degree of inhibition when it comes to munching down on snacks and goodies is tied to his or her likelihood of being overweight. The good news is that using some restraint--for example by choosing low-calorie foods--can help people who just can't seem to resist the temptation to eat, according to lead investigator Dr. Susan B. Roberts. The reasons why some people are able to stay trim while others gain weight remain unclear.
To investigate the role of eating behavior in weight gain, the researchers evaluated three eating behaviors--restraint, disinhibition and hunger--as well as the weight and height of 640 healthy, non-smoking women aged 50 to 60. Restraint is the ability to consciously restrict food intake in order to maintain weight or lose pounds. Disinhibition is the inclination to overeat when tempting food is available, or to overeat in the presence of factors that can loosen inhibitions, such as emotional distress, regardless of whether or not a person is hungry. Hunger is a person's sensitivity to feelings indicating a need for food.
The researchers found that the higher a person's degree of disinhibition, the higher their weight. Roberts said that the main finding of the study is that disinhibited eating is very strongly associated with obesity. Being disinhibited also predicts adult weight gain--30 pounds more over 25 years up to age about 60 years.
However, "being a restrained eater also helps offset the effect of disinhibition," Roberts added. "Restrained eaters are those who count calories (and) tend to shop for low-fat foods. So these behaviors seem to help some, but not as much as not overindulging when you don't need to," she said. Roberts recommends that people who are concerned about their weight fight the urge to gobble up all the food that is offered to them. Instead, Roberts tells people to think about whether or not they are hungry and not to assume that if they overeat at one meal, they will eat less later.