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Appetite. 2006 May;46(3):309-17. Epub 2006 May 2.

'The weight of a thought': food-related thought suppression in obese and normal-weight youngsters.

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Department of Developmental, Personality and Social Psychology, Ghent University, Henri Dunantlaan 2, 9000 Ghent, Belgium.



The ironic processing theory by Wegner states that suppressing unwanted thoughts can be counterproductive because it leads to a rebound of these thoughts, eventually causing increased preoccupations. In line with this view, the present study examines the effects of suppressing food- and eating- related thoughts in obese and non-obese youngsters.


Ninety-seven clinically obese and non-obese boys and girls, with different levels of dietary restraint, were asked to monitor their thoughts about food for 5min, during three subsequent trial periods. Participants were instructed to suppress thoughts about food or to merely monitor them. The number of food-related thoughts was recorded across trials.


No indication was found for an overall post-suppression rebound effect. However, when examining subgroups of high and low restrained eaters, results showed that the obese high restrained eaters displayed a pattern that was indicative of a rebound effect for food-related thoughts. None of the other groups shared these effects.


The results corroborate the hypothesis that trying not to think about food and eating may be counterproductive, at least for a subgroup of clinically obese high restrained eaters. Thought suppression may be one of the factors contributing to acceleration and perpetuation of burdensome food-related thinking in clinically obese high restrained eaters.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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