Cognitive control in the diet

As cognitive control, psychologists refer to conscious mental strategies that are used by a human to perceive, for example, an unpleasant event as more positive. Cognitive control can also influence dietary behavior. Everyone knows tactics to make unpleasant situations more bearable: When visiting a dentist, one tries to distract oneself by thinking of beautiful things or listening to music, one tells oneself that a particular event is not that bad or that it has something good. Our mindset has a whole range of thought maneuvers, distraction and stress management strategies in place to help us control difficult situations and better master them.

Reprogramming the eating behavior

Our eating habits can also be controlled with control mechanisms. These can be used especially if the eating behavior should be "reprogrammed". It is also often used in dieting. Two approaches can be distinguished - the rigid and the flexible control. In order to successfully change the eating behavior in the long term, one should first be able to distinguish these two approaches and critically examine which one applies oneself.

The rigid mental control

This rigid mental censorship aimed at weight loss almost always restricts food intake - self-monitoring is so strong that despite physiological hunger, people try to eat as little as possible. Such a restrained eating behavior is thus very strongly controlled by the thoughts; Signals of the body, such as feelings of hunger or satiety, only play a minor role in nutrition.

Typical of this behavior are usually very rigid and limited ideas about what may be eaten; Foods are classified as "allowed" and "forbidden". Typical rigid thoughts are for example "I never eat chocolate again", "I only eat reduced-fat foods", "I can no longer spread butter on the bread".

Strict mental testing of the food unhelpful

It has been proven that such a stubborn mental test of eating is not helpful in the long run - on the contrary: it increases the likelihood of eating much more than originally intended. Since the rigid mental control is characterized by a strong "all-or-nothing thinking", it is destined to fail just under the influence of a large and omnipresent supply of food.

For the bodyweight not classified as significant eating events (eating a candy, drinking a milkshake, stress) can completely override the mental testing system.

Counter-regulation: rampant food

If the rigid control pattern is no longer active, it comes to counter-regulation. This means that the person in question throws overboard their diet rules ("allowed" and "prohibited" foods). This is followed by typical thoughts such as "I've already failed again, so now it does not matter what I continue to eat". And then the person does exactly what she has tried to do with the greatest effort to prevent - she eats, more than others in such a situation. Rigid control often involves alternating between periods of dieting and periods of rampant eating. This promotes the emergence of obesity and in some cases even promotes the development of an actual eating disorder.

The flexible mental control

In this type of mental control of dietary behavior, behavior is not affected by dietary restrictions over time. Nevertheless, the restriction of daily food intake and the food of low-fat foods are also in the foreground here. However, as there is no subdivision into "allowed" and "forbidden" foods, the variety of foods can be enjoyed; At times a deviation from the general strategy of weight reduction is possible.

For example, in the next week I only eat a total of three bars of chocolate, no matter if one or two rows a day, some days I can not eat chocolate at all and at others, for example at a party, can it also be a whole table once ". The essential thing is that there are quite large and time-wide scope for behavior in which one action can be compensated by another.

This flexibility affects both the choice of food and its quantity. With such a flexible control, the likelihood of a counter-regulation, ie a collapse of the behavioral control and thus unrestrained or attack-like eating is far less than with the rigid control.

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