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"Problem" Foods, Is Avoidance The Best Plan?

In a study at Penn State University, researchers asked 186 women—who they classified with “overweight” or “obesity”—to rank the “foods you can’t resist and find hard to stop eating.”


Young female sitting on bench eating ice cream cone smiling

The foods that most frequently topped the participants’ lists:


1. Ice cream

2. Chips

3. Chocolate

4. Cookies

5. Pizza


The scientists then had participants follow a 12-month weight loss program, and monitored their strategies for managing these “problem” foods.


The result: Overall, the total avoidance of problematic foods—what you often see on “extreme” diets or “quick-fix” weight loss plans—wasn’t an effective strategy.


So what did help? Limiting the portion sizes of problem foods—instead of giving them up altogether—was strongly related to weight loss.


In fact, participants who used this strategy the most lost, on average, nearly double the weight as those who used it the least (15.8 pounds versus 8.3 pounds).


To be sure, if some foods make you feel out of control, you may want to put some boundaries around them. That doesn’t mean you can never eat them.


It just means you’re aware they back be a problem, and you’re going to be intentional about how and when you eat them. This is where nutrition coaching and personal training can be really valuable. Because you don’t have to figure it out by yourself.


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If you, or someone you know, needs help with nutrition or a fitness routine, please reach out. Either online or in the gym, I specialize in helping busy professionals over 40 get fit without burning out. My personal training studio services downtown Toronto and is just steps away from the UP Union to Pearson Express Station.

PMID: 32234531

Roe LS, Rolls BJ. Which strategies to manage problem foods were related to weight loss in a randomized clinical trial? Appetite. 2020 Aug 1;151:104687.

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