It's long been said that diets don't work. But now it's been proven that women dieters do not actually cut the amount they eat – they simply end up feeling guilty about food instead.
Three studies of women found that those who were highly conscious of what they eat did not consume less calories than other women.
But women who dieted differed from women who didn't in one area – they experienced a lot more guilt when it came to eating.
These frequent dieters seem to rob themselves of the pleasure of enjoying food and set themselves up for failure, the findings suggest.
"Despite their good intentions, restraint eaters seem to gain nothing and lose twice," wrote the researchers from Utrecht University, Holland, in the journal Psychology & Health.
"Results indicated that restraint was not associated with food intake, but instead was associated with increased levels of guilt after eating.
"Guilt was explicitly related to food intake."
Some 148 female undergraduates were invited to a laboratory to take part in what they thought was a food-tasting session for a supermarket chain.
They were left alone for ten minutes to sample high calorie foods such as chips and chocolate-covered peanuts and low calorie foods such as crackers and apple slices.
Next they were asked about their emotions, including guilt, and about their attitudes towards food, including how much they diet and how often they worry about what they eat.
The results showed that so-called 'restrained eaters' – who diet often and fret about what they eat and weight fluctuations – had eaten just as much as other women, including just as much high-calorie food.
They also felt greater guilt afterwards, especially in relation to their recent indulgence.
Alice Philipson Telegraph.co.uk