Chat with us, powered by LiveChat Lorem, Ipsum | excelpaper.org/
+1(978)310-4246 credencewriters@gmail.com
  

Understanding successful behaviour change: the role
of intentions, attitudes to the target and motivations

and the example of diet

Jane Ogden*, Lubna Karim, Abida Choudry and Kerry Brown

Abstract

Although many attempts to change health
behaviour fail, some individuals do show suc-
cessful behaviour change. This study assessed
the role of behavioural intentions, motivations
and attitudes to the target in explaining success-
ful changes in diet with a particular focus on
positive and negative intentions and positive
and negative attitudes. Participants (n 5 282)
completed a questionnaire describing a recent
change in eating behaviour (becoming a vege-
tarian, cutting out a food group, eating fewer
calories), their intentions, their attitudes to the
food being avoided, a range of motivations and
their degree of success. The results showed that
the three behaviour change groups differed in
terms of their cognitions with those trying to
eat fewer calories reporting less success in
changing their behaviour. Successful vegetari-
anism was associated with a lower positive
attitude; successfully cutting out a food group
was related to ethical motivations, a lower
positive attitude and greater positive and neg-
ative intentions, and reducing calorie intake
was associated with greater positive intentions
and a lower positive attitude. Therefore, success
was associated with different cognitions de-
pending upon the type of change being made,
although cognitions such as ‘I will eat more

vegetables’ and ‘I no longer find high fat foods
palatable’ were consistently most predictive of
success. Suggestions for the development of
more effective interventions to change health
behaviours are made.

Introduction

Most people attempt to change an aspect of their

health behaviour at some time whether it be to stop

smoking, drink less alcohol, exercise more often or

practice safer sex. For some, these intentions are

translated in successful behaviour change. For

many, however, such intentions never result in

actual behaviour change or may do so only in the

short term. Eating behaviour is especially difficult to

change particularly when this change involves

weight loss-related dieting. Although some studies

indicate that dieters may successfully reduce their

energy intake [1, 2], other studies have found that

dieters rarely reduce energy intake enough to be

successful at weight loss [3–10]. Research exploring

the links between dieting and eating has been de-

veloped within the framework of restraint theory and

was based upon an early study by Herman and

Mack [3]. Restraint theory explored the impact of

imposing cognitive restraint on eating and showed

that paradoxically trying to eat less can result in

overeating. Subsequent studies have explored the

conditions under which overeating eating occurs and

has highlighted a role for factors such as smoking

abstinence [4], food cues [5], cognitive shifts [6]

and lowered mood [7]. In addition, reviews of the

success of weight-loss interventions illustrate that,

although the percentage of people who initially lose

Department of Psychology, University of Surrey,

Guildford, Surrey GU2 7XH, UK

*Correspondence to: J. Ogden.

E-mail: [email protected]

HEALTH EDUCATION RESEARCH Vol.22 no.3 2007

Pages 397–405

Advance Access publication 13 September 2006

� The Author 2006. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.
For permissions, please email: [email protected]

doi:10.1093/her/cyl090

D
ow

nloaded from
https://academ

ic.oup.com
/her/article/22/3/397/596170 by guest on 01 M

ay 2022

weight has recently increased, a large majority of

them regain this weight on 5-year follow-up evalua-

tions [8–10]. Therefore, the majority of dieters find

it difficult to change their eating behaviour. Never-

theless, a small minority do succeed in sustaining

weight loss after 5 years. Similarly, successful

changes in eating behaviour can also be found in

populations other than dieters including vegetarians,

those who chose to fast at specific times of the year

and those who avoid specific foods for religious

reasons. What factors therefore predict successful

changes in eating behaviour? Some research has

addressed the correlates of successful dieting and

has pointed to a role for previous dieting history,

the intensity and length of any intervention and

the individual’s beliefs about the causes and con-

sequences of obesity [e.g. 10, 11]. However, other

research findings point to a potential role for cog-

nitions which may explain successful changes in

eating behaviour beyond that shown by the minor-

ity of dieters. In particular, research in health and

social psychology has drawn upon social cognition

models such as the theory of planned behavi-

our (TPB) [12] and protection motivation theory

(PMT) [13] and highlights a role for behavioural

intentions, attitudes and motivations.

First, in terms of behavioural intentions, research

has shown consistently that the intention to perform

a behaviour can be translated into actual behaviour.

For example, research indicates that the intention

to use condoms predicts condom use, that the in-

tention to exercise correlates with this behaviour

and the intention to attend for cervical or breast

screening practices predicts actual attendance [e.g.

14–16]. In terms of eating behaviour, research has

also shown that the intention to eat healthily is

a successful predictor of subsequent behaviour [e.g.

17]. Therefore, the cognition ‘I intend to …’ seems

to translate into ‘I did’. Sutton [18] carried out an

analysis of the association between behavioural

intentions and behaviour across a series of studies

and concluded that intentions generally predict

between 19% and 38% of the actual variance in

behaviour. This suggests that behavioural inten-

tions may be useful predictors of successful dietary

change. In direct contrast to the social cognition

literature, however, research drawing upon restraint

theory as a means of understanding eating behav-

iour implicitly indicates that the intention to under

eat does not predict actual under eating but has the

paradoxical effect of being associated with over-

eating. For example, studies show that dieters who

make an intention to eat less or to eat more healthily

may end up eating less healthily and overeating

[3, 5]. This approach finds reflection in the work

of Wegner [19] who describe the ‘theory of ironic

processes of mental control’ and suggest that

attempting not to think about something can have

the opposite effect to that which is desired. Further,

it is similar to the work describing different types

of goals and the differential effect of goals and anti

goals [20]. It may not, therefore, be behavioural

intentions per se which predict successful dietary
change but the direction of this intention. Most

research exploring intentions and health behaviours

focuses on positive intentions such as ‘I intend to

use a condom’ and ‘I intend to exercise’, whereas

eating research implicitly focuses on negative

intentions such as ‘I intend not to eat food high in

calorie’. In line with this, the present study aimed

to explore the impact of the type and direction of

behavioural intention of successful changes in

eating behaviour and to examine whether positive

and negative intentions differentially impact upon

the success of behaviour change.

Second, research shows a role for motivational

factors. For example, a study examining the motiv-

ations behind the choice to adopt a vegetarian diet

found a role for moral, health, gustatory and eco-

logical factors [21]. Similarly, Mooney and

Wahlbourn [22] investigated reasons for food

rejection by college students and reported that stu-

dents who avoided meat placed more importance

on ethical factors. Furst et al. [23] also explored
what motivations influenced food choice and found

a role for issues of availability and cost and Steptoe

and Pollard [24] used the ‘food choice question-

naire’ to explore the factors that motivate food

selection and reported a role for familiarity with a

food and convenience. Changes in diet are, there-

fore, the result of a range of motivations. Further,

it would seem that successful food avoidance

J. Ogden et al.

398

D
ow

nloaded from
https://academ

ic.oup.com
/her/article/22/3/397/596170 by guest on 01 M

ay 2022

shown in line with religious rules or by vegetarians

is motivated by different factors by the attempted

food avoidance shown by dieters. However, re-

search to date has been descriptive in its focus and

has not explored whether some forms of motivation

are more predictive of success than others. So as to

lend clarity to this issue, the present study examined

a range of motivational factors and their association

with successful dietary change.

Finally, social cognition models such as the TPB

and PMT [12, 13] also include a role for attitudes

which are defined as ‘a function of a person’s salient

beliefs, which represent perceived consequences of

the behaviour’ [25]. These are usually operational-

ized by asking an individual to rate a particular

behaviour using differentials such as ‘unpleasant/

pleasant’. However, such attitudes are generally

directed at the behaviour per se such as ‘dieting is
effective’ and ‘dieting is pleasant’ [e.g. 26] rather

than at the target of the behaviour. Attitudes to the

target have been described by Eagly and Chaiken

[27] and would seem to be particularly pertinent in

the area of eating behaviour as different foods are

embedded with different meanings and can gener-

ate both positive and negative responses. Examples

of this would include an individual’s attitudes to

cigarettes (for the person intending to stop smok-

ing) or attitudes to meat by the person intending to

become a vegetarian. However, to date, although

research has incorporated attitudes in social cog-

nitive model-based research of behaviour, such

research has focused on attitudes towards the

behaviour rather than to the object. Furthermore,

no research neither has explored the direction of

attitude nor has examined the impact of the direction

of attitude on successful changes in eating behav-

iour. This would seem to be particularly relevant

given that some forms of dietary change such as

vegetarianism may be accompanied by negative

attitudes to the target (‘I will avoid meat and I find

it disgusting’), whereas others may involve posi-

tive attitudes to the target (‘I will eat low fat foods

but I still prefer high fat alternatives’).

In summary, research suggests that while some

attempts to change behaviour are successful, many

are not. Further, some types of changes in eating

behaviour seem to be more consistently associated

with success than others. The literature exploring

behaviour change has drawn upon restraint theory

and social cognition models and has highlighted

a role for a range of cognitions. In particular, re-

search points to a role for behavioural intentions

in explaining this variability but has treated this con-

struct as unidimensional neglecting the potential for

a differential effect of the positive and negative

versions of this variable. Further, the literature has

also pointed to a role for attitudes but has focused

on attitudes to the behaviour rather than attitudes

to the target which would seem to be particularly

pertinent to a behaviour such as eating which is

concerned with a target so embedded with meaning.

Finally, while previous research has explored the

type of motivations linked with food choice, the

relationship between different type of motivation

and success remains unexplored. The present study

therefore aimed to assess differences in cognitions

between different types of changes in eating be-

haviour. In addition, the study aimed to assess

the relative impact of the positive and negative

versions of both intentions and attitudes to the

target and a range of motivations in predicting the

degree of success in actual behaviour change. In

particular, given that dieting seems to generally in-

volve negative intentions, positive attitudes to the

target and weight and health-related motivations,

it was predicted that the use of such cognitions

would help to explain why dieting is a univers-

ally unsuccessful form of behaviour change.

Methods

Design

The study used an anonymous, cross-sectional

questionnaire survey examining a recent episode

of attempted change in eating behaviour.

Participants

Questionnaires (n = 350) were given out to un-
dergraduate students at two universities through

lectures. Completed questionnaires were received

from 282 (response rate = 80.5%).

Successful changes in diet

399

D
ow

nloaded from
https://academ

ic.oup.com
/her/article/22/3/397/596170 by guest on 01 M

ay 2022

Measures

Participants were asked to describe a recent change

in eating behaviour and then to complete questions

describing behavioural intentions, attitudes to the

target, motivations and success which were rated

on a five-point Likert scale ranging from ‘not at

all’ to ‘totally’. Reliability was assessed using

Cronbach’s alphas for each scale within each

behaviour change group.

Change in eating behaviour

Participants were asked to ‘think about a time

recently that you decided to change what you eat’

and to identify if it was one of the following: fol-

lowing a vegetarian diet, cutting out on a particular

food group or food or eating fewer calories. These

were selected as they represented changes in eating

behaviour which were expected to be present in the

population being studied. In addition, they reflected

types of behaviour change which were hypothe-

sized to range from successful (becoming a vege-

tarian) to less successful (eating fewer calories).

They were then asked to go to the section relating

to this behaviour and to rate a series of statements

describing behaviour intentions.

Behaviour intentions

Participants were asked to rate six statements

describing three positive and three negative inten-

tions which were specific to their type of behaviour

change. Positive intention statements included ‘I

would eat more vegetables’ for the vegetarian’s

section, ‘I would eat more low calorie foods’ for

the fewer calorie section and ‘I will eat more foods

from other food groups’ for the cutting out a food

section. Negative intention statements included

‘I will not eat meat’ for the vegetarian’s section,

‘I will not eat sweet foods’ for the fewer calories

section and ‘I will not purchase food from this food

group’ for the cutting out a food group section.

These items were summated to compute a total

negative intention score and a total positive in-

tention score. All alphas for negative intention

were >0.7. The alphas for positive intention for

those becoming a vegetarian and those trying to eat

fewer calories were all >0.5. However, the alpha for

positive intention for those cutting out a food group

was 0.04. On removing one item, the correlation

between the remaining two items was 0.4. There-

fore, for positive intentions for those cutting out

a food group, a two-item scale was used.

Attitudes to the target

Participants were asked to rate the ‘foods you were

trying to avoid’ using a series of four positive adjec-

tives (pleasant, desirable, appetizing, tasty) and four

negative adjectives (disgusting, sickening, horrible,

revolting). These were summated to create a total

positive attitude score and a total negative attitude

score. The alphas for positive and negative attitudes

for all three groups were >0.9.

Motivations

Participants were asked ‘to what extent was your

decision to make this change motivated by the

following reasons’ and then rated the following

motivations: taste, religion, weight, finance, ethics,

health and availability.

Success

Finally, participants were asked to rate their success

at food avoidance using three items ‘I was success-

ful at making this change in my behaviour’, ‘I was

able to stick to my decision to change’ and ‘I kept

breaking my rules’ using a five-point Likert scale

ranging from ‘totally disagree’ to ‘totally agree’.

These were summated to create a total success score.

The alphas for the three groups were all >0.9.

Higher scores reflected higher intentions (posi-

tive and negative), stronger attitudes (positive and

negative), a greater endorsement of the motivation

and greater success.

Participants also described their age, sex and

ethnicity (White/Black/Asian/Other).

Results

The data were analysed to describe the participants’

profile characteristics and type of change in eating

behaviour and to explore differences in intentions,

J. Ogden et al.

400

D
ow

nloaded from
https://academ

ic.oup.com
/her/article/22/3/397/596170 by guest on 01 M

ay 2022

attitude and motivations between the different types

of dietary change. The results were then analysed to

assess the role of positive and negative behavio-

ural intentions, positive and negative attitudes and

a range of motivations in predicting successful

dietary change using multiple regression analysis

within each type of dietary change. A blocked

method of entry was used to enable the impact of

motivations (block 1), intentions (block 2) and

attitudes (block 3) to be assessed separately.

Profile characteristics

Participants’ profile characteristics are shown in

Table I.

The majority of participants was women and

Caucasian, although a large minority described

themselves as Asian. The most common form of

dietary change was an attempt to eat fewer calories.

Difference between different types of
dietary change

The means (and SDs) for the different types of

dietary change are shown in Table II.

The three groups were comparable in terms of

positive and negative intentions and motivations

relating to finance, religion and availability. Trying

to consume fewer calories was associated with

greater motivation relating to health and weight and

trying to become a vegetarian was associated with

greater negative attitudes, lower positive attitudes

and higher motivations relating to taste and ethical

issues. Trying to eat fewer calories resulted in a

lower level of success than the other two types of

behaviour change.

The best predictors of successful dietary
change

The results were analysed to explore the best

predictors of successful behaviour change within

each behaviour change group using multiple re-

gression analysis.

Predicting successfully becoming
a vegetarian

Due to the smaller sample size within this group

(n = 39), initial univariate correlations were carried
out to assess which variables could be entered into

the multiple regression analysis. The results showed

that motivations relating to health (r = �0.44) and
ethics (r = 0.4), positive attitudes (r = �0.59) and
negative attitudes (r = 0.36) were significantly cor-
related with success and were therefore entered into

the multiple regression analysis (P-values < 0.05).
The remaining motivations and positive and nega-

tive intentions were not entered into the analysis.

The results from this analysis showed that a positive

attitude significantly predicted success (b = �0.51,
P = 0.005) accounting for 39% of the variance.
Health motivation (b = �0.24, P = 0.143), ethical
motivation (b = 0.16, P = 0.32) and negative
attitude (b = �0.05, P = 0.76) were unrelated to
success. Successful behaviour change for becom-

ing a vegetarian was associated with lower ratings

of the foods to be avoided as ‘pleasant’, ‘tasty’,

‘desirable’ and ‘appetizing’.

Predicting successfully cutting out
a food group

The best predictors for cutting out a food group

were a higher ethical motivation, greater positive

and negative intentions and a lower positive attitude

towards the food being avoided. Success at cutting

out a food group was therefore associated with an

ethical motivation, cognitions such as ‘I will eat

more foods from other food groups’ and ‘I will not

Table I. Profile characteristics

Variables n % Mean SD Range

Age 182 25.26 9.92 16–66

years

Sex

Male 77 27.3

Female 204 72.3

Ethnicity

White 150 53.2

Black 20 7.1

Asian 83 29.4

Other 28 9.9

Type of change

Vegetarian 39 13.8

Cut out a food group 90 31.9

Eat fewer calories 153 54.3

Successful changes in diet

401

D
ow

nloaded from
https://academ

ic.oup.com
/her/article/22/3/397/596170 by guest on 01 M

ay 2022

purchase foods from this food group’ and lower

beliefs that the foods being avoided were ‘tasty’ or

‘pleasant’ (see Table III).

Predicting successful calorie reduction

Successfully eating fewer calories was associated

with higher positive intentions and a lower positive

attitude to the foods being avoided. Therefore,

greater endorsement of beliefs such as ‘I will only

eat foods that are low in calories’ and less beliefs

that high-calorie foods are ‘tasty’ or ‘pleasant’ were

predictive of success (see Table IV).

Discussion

The present study aimed to assess differences

between different types of changes in eating

behaviour and to evaluate the best predictors of

successful behaviour change with a focus on

behavioural intentions, attitude to the target and

motivations. However, there are some problems

with the study that need to be addressed. First, the

study was cross sectional in design. It is therefore

possible that rather than predicting changes in

behaviour, the cognitions identified are post hoc
justifications of behaviour change. But, why differ-

ent types of change should generate different types

of justification is an interesting question in itself.

Future research should employ a prospective design

to clarify issues of causality. Second, participants

were asked to select the behaviour themselves and

it is possible that they chose the one which resulted

in most success which could shift the results in

a socially desirable direction. The study, however,

was anonymous and participants did not have to

complete the questionnaire if they did not wish

to or if they felt they had not changed their be-

haviour. Pressure to answer in a particular way was

therefore kept to a minimum. The results how-

ever do provide some insights into which cogni-

tions are related to which type of change in eating

behaviour.

The study focused on three types of changes in

eating behaviour, namely, becoming a vegetarian,

cutting out a food group and eating fewer calories.

The results showed that eating fewer calories was

associated with motivations relating to weight and

health and that becoming a vegetarian was associ-

ated with ethical and taste-related motivations,

a lower positive attitude and a greater negative

attitude for the foods being avoided. In addition,

eating fewer calories was associated with lower

success than the other two groups. Previous re-

search suggests that dieting is often unsuccessful

resulting in weight maintenance or weight gain,

Table II. Differences according to type of dietary change (means and SDs)

Variables Vegetarian (n = 39) Cut out a food group (n = 90) Eat fewer calories (n = 153) F

Intentions

Positive intentions 3.41 6 0.83 3.45 6 1.11 3.28 6 0.89 0.38

Negative intentions 3.65 6 1.09 3.54 6 1.19 3.41 6 0.95 1.04

Attitude

Positive attitude 2.79 6 1.4 3.60 6 1.07 3.62 6 1.08 8.70**

Negative attitude 2.47 6 1.41 1.65 6 1.02 1.86 6 1.14 6.96**

Motivations

Financial motivation 1.44 6 0.99 1.32 6 0.7 1.44 6 0.85 1.02

Taste motivation 2.31 6 1.55 1.63 6 1.05 1.58 6 0.93 7.14**

Religious motivation 1.67 6 1.35 1.41 6 1.09 1.25 6 0.7 2.64

Weight motivation 2.17 6 1.67 3.13 6 1.56 4.01 6 1.26 30.78**

Health motivation 2.97 6 1.67 3.84 6 1.41 4.22 6 0.98 14.09**

Availability motivation 1.53 6 1.0 1.41 6 0.85 1.69 6 1.04 1.3

Ethical motivation 3.17 6 1.65 1.66 6 1.35 1.4 6 0.84 35.25**

Success 3.71 6 1.44 3.35 6 1.19 3.16 6 1.27 3.51*

*P < 0.05, **P < 0.001.

J. Ogden et al.

402

D
ow

nloaded from
https://academ

ic.oup.com
/her/article/22/3/397/596170 by guest on 01 M

ay 2022

failed under eating and actual overeating [3, 7, 10].

The present study suggests that this lack of success

may be due to the kinds of cognitions associated

with this behaviour.

To explore this further, the results were then

analysed to assess the best predictors of successful

changes in eating behaviour within each behaviour

change group. For becoming a vegetarian, success-

ful behaviour change was associated with lower

ratings of the positive attributes of the food being

avoided. For cutting out a food group, the best

predictors of success were an ethical motivation,

both positive and negative intentions and a lower

positive attitude, while successfully eating fewer

calories was predicted by higher positive intentions

and a lower positive attitude. Previous research has

highlighted that attempts to change eating behav-

iour are related to a range of motivations includ-

ing ethics, availability, weight and health [21–23].

These findings support this variability in motiva-

tions and suggest that different motivations are

associated with different forms of successful be-

haviour outcomes. Previous research also suggests

a role for behavioural intentions but has tended to

treat this construct as unidimensional in nature and

has not assessed the possibility of a differential

impact from either positive or negative intentions

[e.g. 15]. The results from this study support the

importance of assessing both positive and negative

behavioural intentions for better predictions of

successful outcomes. Further, they indicate that

positive rather than negative intentions may be

more predictive of success. This is line with

Table III. Predicting successful cutting out a food group

(n = 90)

Block Variables Standard

beta

Adjusted

R2
F change

1 Financial motivation �0.20
Taste motivation 0.19

Religious motivation 0.17

Weight motivation �0.24*
Health motivation �0.14
Availability motivation �0.02
Ethical motivation 0.27* 0.27 5.20***

2 Financial motivation �0.20
Taste motivation 0.19

Religious motivation 0.19

Weight motivation �0.27*
Health motivation �0.16
Availability motivation 0.02

Ethical motivation 0.26*

Positive intentions 0.28**

Negative intentions 0.22* 0.36 5.9**

3 Financial motivation �0.19
Taste motivation 0.13

Religious motivation 0.20

Weight motivation �0.19
Health motivation �0.12
Availability motivation 0.03

Ethical motivation 0.33**

Positive intentions 0.24**

Negative intentions 0.19*

Positive attitude �0.23*
Negative attitude �0.01 0.38 5.5*

*P < 0.05, **P < 0.01, ***P < 0.001.

Table IV. Predicting successful calorie reduction (n = 153)

Block Variables Standard

Beta

Adjusted

R2
F change

1 Financial motivation 0.05

Taste motivation 0.12

Religious motivation �0.04
Weight motivation 0.00

Health motivation 0.00

Availability motivation �0.09
Ethical motivation 0.02 �0.04 0.31

2 Financial motivation 0.07

Taste motivation 0.10

Religious motivation �0.03
Weight motivation �0.03
Health motivation �0.00
Availability motivation �0.09
Ethical motivation �0.00
Positive intentions 0.35**

Negative intentions 0.08 0.11 11.98***

3 Financial motivation 0.05

Taste motivation 0.00

Religious motivation �0.04
Weight motivation 0.04

Health motivation 0.03

Availability motivation �0.07
Ethical motivation 0.05

Positive intentions 0.31***

Negative intentions 0.03

Positive attitude �0.32**
Negative attitude 0.12 0.26 14.25***

**P < 0.01, ***P < 0.001.

Successful changes in diet

403

D
ow

nloaded from
https://academ

ic.oup.com
/her/article/22/3/397/596170 by guest on 01 M

ay 2022

Wegner’s work on ironic processes of control [19]

and reflects the concepts of goals and anti goals

described within the literature on self-regulation

[20]. While cutting out a food group was related to

stronger intentions regardless of their direction,

successfully eating fewer calories required stronger

positive intentions. Finally, most previous research

has also highlighted a role for attitudes but has

emphasized attitudes to the behaviour rather than

the target of that behaviour [e.g. 12]. The results

from the present study suggest that attitudes to the

target are related to the degree of success and that

the absence of a positive attitude is consistently

most related to outcome.

In summary, successful changes in three types of

eating behaviour are related to different types of

cognitions. However, an ethical motivation, posi-

tive rather than negative intentions and the absence

of a positive attitude to the target all emerge as

factors most likely to predict success. Accordingly,

cognitions such as ‘eating meat is unethical’, ‘I will

eat more vegetables’ and ‘I no longer find high fat

foods palatable’ are more predictive of success than

motivations relating to other factors such as health

and weight, negative intentions which involve

avoiding foods (‘I will not eat sweet foods’) and

liking the food which is to be avoided (‘I still like

sweet foods’).

These results have implications for both research

and practice. In terms of research, the results

suggest that neither intentions nor attitudes to the

target are unidimensional constructs making it

worthwhile to differentiate between the positive

and negative versions of these variables and that

attitudes to the target rather than just attitudes to the

behaviour are predictive of outcome. It is possible

that the moderate associations between intentions

and behaviour described in the literature [18] may

be due to either the absence of a measure of the

different types of intention or the ability of the two

opposing types of intention to cancel each other

out. The results may also explain the apparent con-

tradiction between the social cognition literature

which suggests that intentions are predictive of

behaviour and the literature based upon restraint

theory which suggests that intentions to under eat

may paradoxically result in overeating. The social

cognition literature may report a positive associa-

tion between intentions and behaviour because it

primarily focuses on positive intentions. In contrast,

restraint literature may report a negative associ-

ation between intentions and behaviour because its

focus is on dieting which is implicitly associated

with negative intentions.

In terms of practice, the results from this study

have implications for the development of effective

behaviour change interventions. At present, many

interventions designed to improve health-related

behaviours such as diet, smoking and drinking

encourage the avoidance of these behaviours. Such

approaches emphasize health as a motivator for

behaviour change and encourage individuals to

develop negative intentions (e.g. ‘I will not eat

fatty foods’ and ‘I will not smoke’), while leaving

them with a positive attitude for these objects of

their behaviour (‘I like fatty foods’, ‘I like ciga-

rettes’). The results from the present study suggest

that such an approach is unlikely to result in actual

behaviour change as it promotes the cognitions

which are linked with failure. However, if an inter-

vention could encourage individuals to be motiv-

ated by factors other than health (such as ethics), to

focus on what they intend to do rather than what

they are going to avoid and to develop a dislike

for the object to be avoided, then perhaps such an

approach would be more predictive of positive

outcomes. Further, such interventions could be

facilitated by social and structural changes de-

signed to promote healthier lifestyles. For example,

changes in social norms towards seeing unhealthy

behaviours such as smoking and an unhealthy diet

as unattractive and socially unacceptable may

reduce an individual’s positive attitudes to the

unhealthy behaviours. Furthermore, the provision

of more easily accessible healthy foods and banning

smoking in public areas make many positive in-

tentions easier both to make and adhere to. Intend-

ing ‘to do’ a healthy behaviour and ‘not liking’ the

unhealthy behaviour seem to be the key to success.

Such an approach should be incorporated into

behaviour change interventions which could

be complimented by social and policy changes

J. Ogden et al.

404

D
ow

nloaded from
https://academ

ic.oup.com
/her/article/22/3/397/596170 by guest on 01 M

ay 2022

designed to provide a better environment in which

a decision to be healthier can be more easily

translated into actual healthier behaviour.

Conflict of interest statement

None declared.

References

1. Thompson JP, Palmer RL, Petersen SA. Is there a metab-
olic component to counterregulation? Int J Eat Disord
1988; 7: 307–19.

2. Van Strien T, Cleven A, Schippers G. Restraint, tendency to
overeating and ice cream consumption. Int J Eat Disord
2000; 28: 333–8.

3. Herman P, Mack D. Restrained and unrestrained eating.
J Pers 1975; 43: 646–60.

4. Ogden J. The effects of smoking cessation, restrained eating,
and motivational states on food intake in the laboratory.
Health Psychol 1994; 13: 114–21.

5. Fedoroff IC, Polivy J, Herman CP. The effect of pre-
exposure to food cues on the eating behavior of restrained
and unrestrained eaters. Appetite 1997; 28: 33–47.

6. Ogden J, Greville L. Cognitive changes to preloading in
restrained and unrestrained eaters as measured by the
Stroop task. Int J Eat Disord 1993; 14: 185–95.

7. Polivy J, Herman CP, McFarlane T. Effects of anxiety on
eating: does palatability moderate distress-induced over-
eating in dieters? J Abnorm Psychol 1994; 103: 505–10.

8. Wilson GT. Behavioral treatment of obesity: thirty years and
counting. Adv Behav Res Ther 1995; 16: 31–75.

9. Wadden TA. Treatment of obesity by moderate and severe
calorie restriction: results of clinical research trials. Ann
Intern Med 1993; 119: 688–93.

10. NHS Centre for Reviews and Dissemination, University
of York. Systematic Review of Interventions in the Treat-
ment and Prevention of Obesity, 1997.

11. Ogden J. The correlates of long-term weight loss: a group
comparison study of obesity. Int J Obesity 2000; 24:
1018–25.

12. Ajzen I. From intention to actions: a theory of planned
behavior. In: Kuhl J, Beckman J (eds). Action-Control:

From Cognition to Behavior. Heidelberg, Germany:
Springer, 1985, 11–39.

13. Rogers RW. A protection motivation theory of fear appeals
and attitude change. J Psychol 1975; 91: 93–114.

14. Yzer MC, Siero FW, Buunk BP. Bringing up condom use
and using condoms with new sexual partners: intentional
or habitual? Psychol Health 2001; 16: 409–21.

15. Plotnikoff RC, Higginbotham N. Protection motivation
theory and the prediction of exercise and low-fat diet
behaviours among Australian cardiac patients. Psychol
Health 1998; 13: 411–29.

16. Sheeran P, Orbell S. Using implementation intentions to
increase attendance for cervical cancer screening. Health
Psychol 2000; 19: 283–9.

17. Povey R, Conner M, Sparks P et al. The theory of planned
behaviour and healthy eating: examining additive and
moderating effects of social influence variables. Psychol
Health 2000; 14: 991–1006.

18. Sutton S. Predicting and explaining intentions and behav-
iour: how well are we doing? J Appl Soc Psychol 1998; 28:
1317–38.

19. Wegner DM. Ironic processes of mental control. Psychol
Rev 1994; 101: 34–52.

20. Wrosch C, Scheier MF, Miller GE et al. Adaptive self-
regulation of unattainable goals: goal disengagement, goal
reengagement, and subjective well-being. Pers Soc Psychol
Bull 2003; 29: 1494–508.

21. Santos MLS, Booth DA. Influences on meat avoidance
among British students. Appetite 1996; 27: 197–205.

22. Mooney KM, Wahlbourn L. When college students
reject food: not just a matter of taste. Appetite 2001; 36:
41–50.

23. Furst T, Connors M, Bisogni CA et al. Food choice:
a conceptual model of the process. Appetite 1996; 26:
247–66.

24. Steptoe A, Pollard TM, Wardle J. Development of a measure
of the motives underlying the selection of food: the food
choice questionnaire. Appetite 1995; 25: 267–84.

25. Conner M, Norman P. Predicting Health Behaviours,
2nd edition. Buckingham, England: Open University
Press, 2005.

26. Fishbein M, Ajzen I. Belief, Attitude, Intention, and
Behaviour: An Introduction to Theory and Research.
Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1975.

27. Eagly AH, Chaiken S. The Psychology of Attitudes. Fort
Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1993.

Received on November 13, 2005; accepted on July 7, 2006

Successful changes in diet

405

D
ow

nloaded from
https://academ

ic.oup.com
/her/article/22/3/397/596170 by guest on 01 M

ay 2022

error: Content is protected !!