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The impact of holiday eating cues on self-regulatory bolstering for dieters and non-dieters

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Objective : Two studies examined the hypothesis that the presence vs. absence of holiday food cues leads dieters to bolster self-regulatory resources and reduce consumption of a snack food. Study 1 evaluated snack-food consumption on a holiday vs. a non-holiday and in Study 2, the proposed underlying mechanism – the bolstering of self-regulatory resources when facing holiday-related cues – was explored.

Methods : Study 1 followed a quasi-experimental design in which participants (N = 152) consumed candies either on a holiday or a non-holiday. Dieting behaviour was measured and the main outcome measure was consumption quantity. In Study 2, a true experiment, participants (N = 110) read primes associated with holiday eating, holiday history or a neutral topic. Self-regulatory bolstering was assessed as the main outcome measure.

Results : Study 1 showed that dieters consume more of a food item on an ordinary day relative to a holiday; the consumption patterns of non-dieters did not vary based on holiday cues. Study 2 demonstrated that dieters, but not non-dieters, bolster self-regulatory resources to a greater extent in the presence vs. absence of a holiday food cue.

Conclusion : Dieters are better equipped to defend their diet-related goals when facing strong holiday-related temptations than weaker, everyday temptations.
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Keywords: dietary restraint; food consumption; food cues; holiday; self-regulatory bolstering

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Marketing and International Business, Iona College, New Rochelle, NY, USA 2: Department of Marketing, Schools of Business, Fordham University, New York, NY, USA

Publication date: September 2, 2014

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