Women dieters don't eat any less – they just feel guiltier about it
148 women were left alone to sample chips and apples
Those who said they regularly went on diets ate just as much as the other women but felt more guilty Despite good intentions restraint eaters 'gain nothing'
12:01 GMT, 1 March 2013
13:53 GMT, 1 March 2013
Women dieters do not actually cut the amount they eat and simply end up feeling guilty about food, according to new research.
A study found that women who reported dieting more often and being highly conscious of their food intake still tend to consume as many calories as other women.
But one area in which they did differ was in experiencing a lot more guilt, especially in relation to eating.
Temptation: Restricting yourself won't necessarily make you eat any less, but will make you feel more guilty
These frequent dieters seem to rob themselves of the pleasure of enjoying food and set themselves up for failure, the Dutch findings suggest.
'Despite their good intentions, restraint eaters seem to gain nothing and lose twice,' write the researchers from Utrecht University in the journal Psychology & Health.
'Results indicated that restraint was not associated with food intake, but instead was associated with increased levels of guilt after eating.
'Guilt was explicitly related to food intake.'
They added that the research showed the higher guilt levels observed could not be down to any general increase in negative emotions.
Jessie de Witt Huberts, from the university's Department of Clinical and Health Psychology, and colleagues carried out experiments involving 148 female undergraduates.
The women were invited to a laboratory to take part in what they thought was a food-tasting session for a supermarket chain.
Research suggest nearly half of young women try dieting
They were left alone for 10 minutes to sample high calorie foods such as chips and chocolate-covered peanuts and low calorie foods such as crackers and apple slices.
Next they were asked about their emotions, including guilt, and about their attitudes towards food, including how much they diet and how often they worry about what they eat.
The results showed that so-called 'restrained eaters' – who diet often and fret about what they eat and weight fluctuations – had eaten just as much as other women, including just as much high-calorie food.
They also felt greater guilt afterwards, especially in relation to their recent indulgence.
The authors concluded by saving it is vital to learn more about why frequent dieters experience such negative outcomes, given studies that indicate 45 per cent of young girls report dieting.