Cognitive and weight-related correlates of flexible and rigid restrained eating behaviour

Eat Behav. 2013 Jan;14(1):69-72. doi: 10.1016/j.eatbeh.2012.10.015. Epub 2012 Nov 13.


Objectives: Examine the association between components of restrained eating, cognitive performance and weight loss maintenance.

Methods: 106 women, all members of a commercial slimming organisation for at least 6 months (mean±SD: 15.7±12.4 months), were studied who, having lost 10.1±9.7 kg of their initial weight, were hoping to sustain their weight loss during the 6 month study. Dietary restraint subcomponents flexible and rigid restraint, as well as preoccupying cognitions with food, body-shape and diet were assessed using questionnaires. Attentional bias to food and shape-related stimuli was measured using a modified Stroop test. Working memory performance was assessed using the N-back test. These factors, and participant weight, were measured twice at 6 month intervals.

Results: Rigid restraint was associated with attentional bias to food and shape-related stimuli (r=0.43, p<0.001 resp. r=0.49, p<0.001) whereas flexible restraint correlated with impaired working memory (r=-0.25, p<0.05). In a multiple regression analyses, flexible restraint was associated with more weight lost and better weight loss maintenance, while rigid restraint was associated with less weight loss.

Conclusions: Rigid restraint correlates with a range of preoccupying cognitions and attentional bias to food and shape-related stimuli. Flexible restraint, despite the impaired working memory performance, predicts better long-term weight loss. Explicitly encouraging flexible restraint may be important in preventing and treating obesity.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attention / physiology
  • Body Image / psychology
  • Body Weight / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Diet, Reducing / classification
  • Diet, Reducing / psychology*
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Stroop Test
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Weight Loss / physiology*
  • Young Adult