Cognitive and weight-related correlates of flexible and rigid restrained eating behaviour

Joachim Westenhoefer, Daniel Engel, Claus Holst, Jürgen Lorenz, Matthew Peacock, James Stubbs, Stephen Whybrow, Monique Raats

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Citations (Scopus)


Examine the association between components of restrained eating, cognitive performance and weight loss maintenance.

106 women, all members of a commercial slimming organisation for at least 6 months (mean ± SD: 15.7 ± 12.4 months), were studied who, having lost 10.1 ± 9.7 kg of their initial weight, were hoping to sustain their weight loss during the 6 month study. Dietary restraint subcomponents flexible and rigid restraint, as well as preoccupying cognitions with food, body-shape and diet were assessed using questionnaires. Attentional bias to food and shape-related stimuli was measured using a modified Stroop test. Working memory performance was assessed using the N-back test. These factors, and participant weight, were measured twice at 6 month intervals.

Rigid restraint was associated with attentional bias to food and shape-related stimuli (r = 0.43, p < 0.001 resp. r = 0.49, p < 0.001) whereas flexible restraint correlated with impaired working memory (r = − 0.25, p < 0.05). In a multiple regression analyses, flexible restraint was associated with more weight lost and better weight loss maintenance, while rigid restraint was associated with less weight loss.

Rigid restraint correlates with a range of preoccupying cognitions and attentional bias to food and shape-related stimuli. Flexible restraint, despite the impaired working memory performance, predicts better long-term weight loss. Explicitly encouraging flexible restraint may be important in preventing and treating obesity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-72
Number of pages4
JournalEating Behaviors
Issue number1
Early online date13 Nov 2012
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2013

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attention
  • Body Image
  • Body Weight
  • Cognition
  • Diet, Reducing
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Memory, Short-Term
  • Middle Aged
  • Questionnaires
  • Stroop Test
  • Weight Loss
  • Young Adult
  • Restrained Eating
  • Cognitive Performance


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