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Diet Temptations Include Cravings, Friends And Alcohol Study Finds

02/26/2014 12:02 EST | Updated 02/26/2014 12:59 EST
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A new study published in Annals of Behavioral Medicine says effective dieting goes beyond "sheer willpower and self-control." Heather McKee of the University of Birmingham, U.K. and her research team found environmental and social factors such as alcohol, time with friends and late-night cravings all contribute to falling off the diet wagon.

The research team studied 80 dieters for one week, for which they were given mobile phones to chronicle all "diet temptations" they faced and what daily situations prompted submission to such temptations. These online diaries helped McKee and her team create a real-time record of temptations and lapses.

Participants gave in to temptations a little over 50 per cent of the time, with most lapses occurring at nighttime. Alcohol was the common trigger, as opposed to eating a sugary treat or otherwise binging.

Willpower was also tested when participants were spending time with friends, regardless of whether a dietary temptation cropped up or participants were on the hunt for a particular food.

The research team's conclusions could prove very helpful to weight loss and diet relapse programs. For example, this research supports studies concerning weight loss apps as effective dieting tools, and perhaps play a part in the creation of weight loss apps that work as more effective support systems for dieters.

Past research on this subject includes an October 2013 University of Massachusetts Medical School study that focused on whether weight loss apps were "worth the cost." Published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, the study found that while weight loss apps provided helpful advice and resources, they were not as effective in preventing relapses and keeping people motivated. It found the best of the bunch to be MyNetDiary and MyNetDiary Pro, followed by All-in Fitness and Noom Weight Loss.

McKee's findings also stress the importance of "bolstering belief" in ability to reach weight loss goals, something past studies also highlight.

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