Restrained Eating and Food Cues: Recent Findings and Conclusions

Curr Obes Rep. 2017 Mar;6(1):79-85. doi: 10.1007/s13679-017-0243-1.


Purpose of review: The purposes of the present review are to organize the recent literature on the effects of food cues on restrained and unrestrained eaters and to determine current directions in such work.

Recent findings: Research over the last several years involves both replicating the work showing that restrained eaters respond to attractive food cues by eating more but unrestrained eaters show less responsiveness and extending this work to examine the mechanisms that might underlie this differential responsiveness. Labeling a food as healthy encourages more eating by restrained eaters, while diet-priming cues seem to curtail their consumption even in the face of attractive food cues. Work on cognitive responses indicates that restrained (but not unrestrained) eaters have both attention and memory biases toward food cues. Restrained eaters attend more strongly to food- and diet-related cues than do unrestrained eaters, as evidenced in both their eating behavior and their attention and memory responses to such cues. These effects interact with expectations and manner of presentation of such cues. What remains to be understood is the meaning and mechanism of the attention bias toward food cues in restrained eaters and the implications of such bias for overeating and overweight more broadly speaking.

Keywords: Attention bias; Diet-priming cues; Eating behavior; Food cues; Restrained eaters.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attentional Bias
  • Conditioning, Psychological
  • Cues*
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Female
  • Food Preferences / psychology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory
  • Portion Size / psychology