Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version

April 2005


Abstract of Paper Session from Society for Behavioral Medicine Annual Meeting, Boston, MA, April 13-15, 2005, titled "You Are What You Eat: Eating Behaviors and Weight Control"; published in Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 29, Annual Meeting Supplement, S208. Online @


Many individuals diet to lose weight. Most attempts are not successful—weight is either not lost or is quickly regained.We investigated decision making factors influencing dieting intentions versus those influencing actual behavior. Prior to eating in a university cafeteria, 65 participants reported their cost-benefit beliefs about low fat foods and fruits/vegetables, affective associations with both food categories, and whether they were currently dieting to lose weight. After the meal, participants reported what they ate. Using these reports and nutritional data from the college dining service, we computed the calories, total and saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol consumed. Cost-benefit beliefs and affective associations were examined as predictors of both dieting intentions and actual dietary intake. For intentions to diet, cost-benefit beliefs about both types of food differentiated dieters and non-dieters, both Fs(1,69)>3.5, p<.05, whereas neither affective variable differed by intentions, both Fs(1,69)<2.0, ns. By contrast, when predicting actual dietary intake, the two affective variables predicted of all nutritional content variables, both Fs>3.5, p<.05, whereas neither cognitive variable predicted intake, both Fs>1, ns. These findings suggest that decisions to diet are influenced by different factors than are actual decisions about dietary behaviors. These differential decision influences may help to explain why attempts to diet are so frequently unsuccessful.