Effects of temptations on the affective salience of weight control goals.

Department of Psychology, Boston University, 648 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02215, USA.
Behaviour Research and Therapy (Impact Factor: 3.85). 04/2007; 45(3):449-58. DOI: 10.1016/j.brat.2006.03.018
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Despite the value of weight control goals, the maintenance of healthy eating habits represents a challenge for most. Self-regulatory efforts are often challenged by the presence of high-risk cues (e.g., tempting foods) which provide short-term positive outcomes at the expense of these long-term health objectives. The current study examined contextual influences on self-regulation failure by exploring the effect of cues on an indirect measure of goal value. Two experiments were conducted with undergraduate students which examined the effect of temptation cues on the evaluation of information related to the goal of weight control. Results of Study 1 provided preliminary evidence for the utility of this task as an indirect measure of goal value and showed that food-related primes slowed evaluation response times for weight control-related targets. Study 2 replicated and extended these findings by demonstrating that temptation cues may not only decrease the affective salience of weight control related information but increase the salience of information related to the goal of affect enhancement. These results suggest that self-regulation failure may be influenced by contextual changes in the value of health-related goals. Implications for prevention and intervention efforts are discussed.

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    ABSTRACT: Relapsing to overeating is a stubborn problem in obesity treatment. We tested the hypothesis that context cues surrounding palatable food (PF) intake have the power to disrupt caloric regulation even of less PF. Context cues are non-food cues that are in the environment where PF is habitually eaten. Rats were conditioned to associate intake of Oreo cookies as the PF to cages with distinct context cues that differed from cues in cages where they were only given chow. PF naturally stimulated greater caloric intake. The rats were then tested in the PF cage with only chow available to determine whether the PF-paired cues, alone, could elicit overeating of plain chow. Non-food-deprived female Sprague-Dawley rats. Intake of plain chow under PF-paired cues vs chow-paired cues was compared. This was also measured in tests that included a morsel of PF as a priming stimulus. We also controlled for any effect of binge-prone vs binge-resistant status to predict cued-overeating. Rats consumed significantly more chow when exposed to context cues paired earlier with PF than with chow (P<0.01). This effect occurred using various cues (for example, different types of bedding or wallpaper). The effect was strengthened by priming with a morsel of PF (P<0.001) and was unaffected by baseline differences in propensity to binge on PF. Context-cues associated with PF intake can drive overeating even of a less PF and abolish the ability of rats to compensate for the calories of a PF primer. Just as drug-associated context cues can reinstate drug-addiction relapse, PF-paired cues may trigger overeating relapses linked to weight regain and obesity. This model should help identify the reflex-like biology that sabotages attempts to adhere to healthy reduced calorie regimens and call greater attention to the cue-factor in the treatment of binge eating and obesity.
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