The Dieter’s Dilemma: Identifying When and How to Control Consumption

Read this….

“Further studies find that merely thinking about future goal pursuits can influence present choice (Zhang et al. 2007). For example, when considering future workouts, gym users may conclude either that they are more committed to their health goal or that they will make progress toward the goal. These inferences will have opposite implications for what they presently decide to eat. People will indulge less in unhealthy foods when interpreting future workouts as commitment to health goals, but more when interpreting future workouts as progress.”

Now read the following paper…..

Abstract (Via U Chicago)

We demonstrate the two necessary stages for successful self-control in the face of tempting foods: (i) identification of self-control conflict and (ii) implementation of self-control strategies. Successful self-control requires that the individual identifies multiple opportunities to indulge as interrelated and that the same choice will be made for each opportunity. Only in this interrelated frame will the health-conscious individual perceive potentially serious costs of indulging in tempting, unhealthy foods. In the second stage, when a self-control conflict is identified, successful self-control depends further on the operation of counteractive self-control strategies. These strategies undermine the motivational strength of tempting foods and bolster the motivational strength of weight-watching goals. As a result of exercising self-control, the likelihood of adhering to health and weight-watching goals increases.

Introduction (Via U Chicago)

Drawn to plentitudes of tempting foods, the dieter’s challenge of restricting consumption is two-fold. Not only must she employ the force of will to steer clear from temptation, but she must also know when such efforts are appropriate in the first place. Clearly, people need to eat and, unlike other temptations (e.g., cigarettes, drugs and alcohol), abstinence is not a solution. The question is then, when and under what circumstances should people exercise restraint? Having the one extra sandwich between meals might not amount to high costs alone, but having it every day might. Indulging in one chocolate alone will not cause significant problems for most dieters, but regular consumption might. Knowing when to exercise restraint is as important as knowing how to exercise restraint, and these two challenges together constitute the dieter’s dilemma.

The 2 stage model of self control (Via U Chicago)

On the basis of this analysis, we propose a two-stage model of self-control to describe the dieter’s dilemma (Myrseth & Fishbach, 2009a). According to this model (see Figure 1), individuals facing a tempting stimulus either will identify self-control conflict or not (Stage 1). If the individual identifies self-control conflict, the individual will employ self-control processes to promote goal-pursuit over indulgence in temptation (Stage 2). However, if the individual does not initially identify self-control conflict, the individual will choose temptation without invoking self-control processes.

The First Stage: Conflict Identification
The problem of identification arises only in circumstances under which the cost of a single indulgence is trivial (or epsilon). We conceptually distinguish between “malignant” and “epsilon cost” temptation. The former is characterized by potentially serious costs associated with unit consumption (e.g., sugar for the dieter with diabetes). The latter is characterized by trivial costs (e.g., sugar for the dieter with no diabetes). Specifically, the unit consumption cost of epsilon temptation is trivial, but the extended consumption cost may prove quite serious. Epsilon cost temptation is distinct from malignant temptation by virtue of its ambiguous threat to goal pursuit (during Stage 1, Figure 1). The individual facing malignant temptation will likely identify self-control conflict, but conflict identification in the face of epsilon cost temptation is less clear.

The Second Stage: Choice Resolution

To the extent that a self-control conflict is identified upon presentation of temptation, the individual will exert self-control. Then, successful goal pursuit will depend on the effectiveness of self-control strategies. In this section we address the nature of the self-control strategies from the standpoint of counteractive control theory (Fishbach & Trope, 2005; Myrseth et al. 2009; Trope & Fishbach, 2000).

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29. December 2009 by Miguel Barbosa
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