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The last supper effect

by Tansy Boggon
The Last Supper Effect

Have you ever decided or declared that the diet starts on Monday, then find yourself justifying having the large mains serve rather than your usual entrée size, finishing off the bottle of wine, or having a dessert? We can pre-empt the restriction to come on a diet, and excessively eat the foods that we enjoy or fear going without. This is known as ‘the last supper effect’, and researchers have demonstrated that this is a common occurrence among dieters.

Anticipation of dieting can lead to overeating

A study of female university students found that participants who were expected to diet for one week ate significantly more in a taste-rating task than the control group who were not told they would go on a diet. This study demonstrates that simply planning to go on a diet can trigger overeating in restrained eaters. This overeating is not necessarily in response to a strong liking or desire for the food being eaten, but a fear of imminent deprivation and not being able to eat certain foods for some time.

Therefore, if we can drop our dieting rules and eat in a way that is no longer a struggle, we can discover whether we truly enjoy the foods that we have deprived ourselves of and let go of past beliefs that result in overeating. If we can learn to eat in a way that nourishes and feels good for our body, we can put an end to a behaviour that fuels our guilt and overeating.

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