Are you craving chocolate right now?
An Australian study has found messages about weight and images of models can make women crave chocolate.
The study found people who didn't regularly diet showed a strong impulse to eat chocolate when presented with negative messaging, including warnings like "a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips".
Researchers at the University of Western Australia teamed up with the University of Strathclyde in the UK and studied 80 women's eating habits using the Orientation to Chocolate Questionnaire, developed by UWA's Professor Werner Stritzke.
The questionnaire assessed three components associated with craving for chocolate: approach, avoidance and guilt.
The women who were regular dieters displayed lesser cravings for chocolate, but still reacted to images of thin models — instead of feeling guilt they felt closer to their ideals and were more likely to allow the craving.
According to lead author Prof Kevin Durkin, when a warning creates desire for a forbidden product it is known as "reactance" — and it could be used to influence our food choices.
"Reactance could be more marked among the low restraint participants because they are generally less preoccupied with regulating their food intake and thus find external attempts to intervene in freely determined behaviour more jarring," Professor Durkin said.
Related: How to master self-control
"Among participants with high restraint, those exposed to the thin model consumed significantly more chocolate, while model size didn't have any real impact on those with low restraint.
"From a chocolate advertiser's perspective, exploitation of young women's vulnerability to the thin ideal has some attractions."
Professor Stritzke's Orientation to Chocolate Questionnaire has also revealed that people, including children aged 10 to 13, who crave chocolate and feel guilt after eating chocolate are more likely to experience "the core symptoms of eating disorders".
"Illuminating the role of guilt has also revealed a link between chocolate craving and children's body image dissatisfaction and dieting behaviours," Stritzke said of his earlier findings "Our prospective analyses suggested that chocolate-related guilt may be an early indicator of emerging unhealthy attitudes toward food and dieting."
The study was published in the journal Appetite.
Author: Philippa Lees
Approving editor: Rory Kinsella.
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