Targeting impulsive processes of eating behavior via the internet: Effects on body weight

Harm Veling, Guido M. Van Koningsbruggen, Henk Aarts, Wolfgang Stroebe

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


Objective. Palatable food, such as sweets, contains properties that automatically trigger the impulse to consume it even when people have goals or intentions to refrain from consuming such food. We compared the effectiveness of two interventions in reducing the portion size of palatable food that people select for themselves. Specifically, the use of dieting implementation intentions that reduce behaviour towards palatable food via top-down implementation of a dieting goal was pitted against a stop-signal training that changes the impulse-evoking quality of palatable food from bottom-up. Design. We compared the two interventions using a 2 × 2 factorial design. Methods. Participants completed a stop-signal training in which they learned to withhold a behavioural response upon presentation of tempting sweets (vs. control condition) and formed implementation intentions to diet (vs. control condition). Selected portion size was measured in a sweet-shop-like environment (Experiment 1) and through a computerized snack dispenser (Experiment 2). Results. Both interventions reduced the amount of sweets selected in the sweet shop environment (Experiment 1) and the snack dispenser (Experiment 2). On average, participants receiving an intervention selected 36% (Experiment 1) and 51% (Experiment 2) fewer sweets than control participants. In both studies, combining the interventions did not lead to additive effects: Employing one of the interventions appears to successfully eliminate instrumental behaviour towards tempting food, making the other intervention redundant. Conclusions. Both interventions reduce self-selected portion size, which is considered a major contributor to the current obesity epidemic.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Goal Conflict Model of Eating Behaviour
Subtitle of host publicationSelected Works of Wolfgang Stroebe
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781351393553
ISBN (Print)9781138301726
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017
Externally publishedYes


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