Dieting and food craving. A descriptive, quasi-prospective study

Appetite. 2012 Jun;58(3):781-5. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2012.01.020. Epub 2012 Jan 28.


Evidence linking food restriction and food craving is equivocal. This study investigated whether dieting was associated with a greater frequency of food craving. Dieting to lose weight was distinguished from watching so as not to gain weight. Participants were 129 women (mean age=41 yrs): 52 were currently dieting to lose weight, 40 were watching their weight, and 37 were non-dieters. They completed a food craving record after every food craving, a food diary, and a daily mood assessment over 7-days. Of the 393 craving incidents recorded, dieters experienced significantly more food cravings than non-dieters, with watchers intermediate. Chocolate was the most craved food (37% of cravings) but neither the types of food, the proportion of cravings leading to eating (∼70%), the situations in which cravings occurred, nor the time since the last eating episode differed between groups. Compared with non-dieters, dieters experienced stronger cravings that were more difficult to resist, and for foods they were restricting eating. Watchers showed similarities in experience both to dieters (low hunger) and non-dieters (lower craving intensity). These results support an association between dieting and food craving, the usefulness of distinguishing dieting to lose weight and watching, and suggest a need for further experimental investigation of actual food restriction on food craving experiences.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect
  • Appetite*
  • Body Weight*
  • Cacao
  • Caloric Restriction / psychology*
  • Diet / psychology*
  • Diet Records
  • Diet, Reducing / psychology*
  • Eating
  • Energy Intake*
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Food Preferences / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Hunger
  • Social Control, Informal
  • Weight Gain
  • Weight Loss