Have your cake and eat it too

SIOBHAN DOWNES
Last updated 05:00 04/12/2013
Choc cake

WICKEDLY DELICIOUS: If only having zero guilt meant we could eat as much cake as we wanted... dare to dream.

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If you're trying to lose weight, you can have your cake and eat it too - as long as you don't feel guilty about it, a new study suggests.

Psychologists at the University of Canterbury have found people who felt guilty about eating chocolate cake were less successful at maintaining their weight than those who saw it as something to celebrate.

In fact, associating chocolate cake with guilt was related to an average weight gain of 2.36 kilograms, compared to 0.36kg for those who enjoyed it guilt-free.

Researchers Roeline Kuijer and Jessica Boyce surveyed nearly 300 people to see whether the association of "guilt" or "celebration" with chocolate cake had any impact on their weight over 18 months.

The findings were published in the journal, Appetite, where the researchers noted the cultural differences surrounding perceptions of food, and weight control.

The prevalence of obesity was much higher in the United States than in France, while the Americans tended to worry more about food and health and focus less on the enjoyment and experience of food than the French.

Many countries, including New Zealand, had launched media campaigns and programmes to increase healthy eating and prevent obesity, but an unintended side effect might be that they fuelled feelings of guilt and worry about food, the study found.

"Trying to avoid forbidden foods makes them more desirable and tends to result in cravings and hence less control."

There was evidence a positive attitude about treats might enhance self-control and decrease unhealthy food intake, the study found.

"Enjoyment of food and eating is essential to people's wellbeing and the current study shows that people who associate a 'forbidden food' with celebration and view it as a treat that can be enjoyed do better in terms of weight management.

"In education messages about dietary recommendations enjoyment of food and eating should receive more attention than it has in the past."

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