A new study from Miriam Hospital’s Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center in Providence, Rhode Island, has just been published in the journal Obesity. The research suggests that dieters who tend to eat in response to external factors like parties and celebrations, have fewer problems with their weight loss than those who eat in response to internal factors such as emotions. The study also found that emotional eating was associated with weight regain in people who had successfully lost weight
The researchers analyzed individual’s responses to questions in a well-known research tool called the Eating Inventory which is designed to assess three aspects of eating behavior:
- Cognitive restraint
The main focus was on the third item, since some previous research has suggested that disinhibition as a whole is an accurate predictor of weight loss.
The disinhibition scale evaluates impulsive eating in response to emotional, cognitive, or social cues.
There were two groups in the study. The first consisted of 286 overweight men and women who were currently participating in a behavioral weight loss program. The second group included 3,345 members of the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR), an ongoing study of adults who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for at least one year.
The investigators found that the components within the disinhibition scale could be grouped into two distinct factors: external and internal disinhibition.
An example of external disinhibition would be the person who overeats when they are with someone who is also overeating, or the person who just overeats at a party, picnic or celebration.
The person with internal disinhibition eats in response to thoughts and feelings such as loneliness, upset or anxiety.
In both groups internal disinhibition was a significant predictor of weight over time. For participants in the weight loss program, the higher the level of internal disinhibition, the less weight an individual lost over time. The same was true for maintainers in the NWCR: Internal disinhibition predicted weight regain over the first year of registry membership.
Before starting a weight management program it is very helpful to know which group you are in. It provides us with a quick and easy method of tailoring the program to the individual, and tells us where to put our efforts.