American Association for Psychological Science features Swansea research

Although reducing calorie intake is often suggested as the means to control body weight, it was proposed that this is not the best strategy. The body is programmed to anticipate famine and as soon as dieting ends biology takes over and you put on weight. There is a need for eternal vigilance – the emphasis should be on preventing the replacement of weight after it has been lost.

A paper by David Benton and Hayley Young, of the Swansea Psychology Department, has been featured by the American Association for Psychological Science. The influential and impactful journal ‘Perspectives on Psychological Science’, aims to publish provocative reports on major issues in the psychology, In this spirit the article, entitled “Reducing calorie intake may not help you lose body weight”, questions the received wisdom that to control body weight we should concentrate on reducing calorie intake. This assumption underlies the majority of psychological studies of eating behaviour and is the basis for public health policy in the area of obesity.

For many there is a desire to lose weight for both matters of appearance and health benefits. Dieting in the short-term works, although the outcome more often than not is yo-yo dieting, that is the lost weight is rapidly regained only to be followed by the next diet.  When we reduce our energy consumption, mechanisms kick in that reduce the metabolic rate and increase calorie intake.  Even a year after dieting, hormonal mechanisms that stimulate appetite are raised. To prevent regaining weight there needs to be a conscious effort to limit the impact of a range of biological mechanisms that, if unchecked, result in regaining lost weight.  Dieting will reduce weight but for lasting benefits there is a need for eternal vigilance. When you are no longer carefully counting calories your biology attempts to replace lost weight. Psychological research needs to redirect its attention from reducing calorie intake to maintaining weight loss.