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Answer: Yes. Maybe. Not always, for everyone.

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

The foods that most frequently topped the participants’ lists:

  1. Ice cream
  2. Crisps
  3. Chocolate
  4. Cookies
  5. Pizza

But then the scientists went a step further.

They had participants follow a 12-month weight loss program, and monitored their strategies for managing these problem foods.

The finding: Limiting the portion sizes of problem foods was strongly related to weight loss.

In fact, participants who used this strategy the most lost nearly double the weight as those who used it the least—7.2 kg (15.8 lbs) versus 3.8 kg (8.3 lbs). (See Image 1)

Study Takeaways

1. MOST PEOPLE KNOW THEIR PROBLEM FOODSBut asking someone to officially identify them can help improve awareness and reveal patterns. And that can lead to more effective strategies for managing their intake.To start, do what the study participants did: Make a list.

2. TASTY FOODS ARE LIKELY TO BE EATEN.While this study doesn’t support “avoiding” foods, our practical experience working with clients says a person’s environment does matter.

Because if a client’s kitchen or office is filled with their problem foods, it can be… a real problem. No matter how much willpower you have, it’s natural to grab the easiest and most tempting food options, especially when you’re tired, stressed, or ravenous.

If a food is in your house or possession, either you, someone you love, or someone you marginally tolerate will eventually eat it.

This “law” doesn’t just pertain to problem foods; it also applies to the foods we should eat frequently. In the latter case, get those foods prepped and ready-to-eat—so they’re as convenient as packaged snacks. Or put another way:

  • Peeled orange slices > unpeeled orange
  • Washed berries > unwashed berries
  • Sliced bell pepper > whole pepper

You see how it works. None of this requires an entire Sunday afternoon of food prep. But a little effort ahead of time can lead to substantially better choices in the moment.


You’re probably tired of us making this point, but we don’t categorise foods as “good” or “bad.”

That can teach people to moralise food choices, causing them to literally feel like a bad person for eating the “wrong” foods.

Who needs more guilt and shame in life?

We’ve found there’s a subtle difference between demonising a food and merely abstaining from it because you know you tend to overeat it.

That’s why we advise you to think differently. Instead of universal “good” and “bad” foods, we suggest you build a personalised list of your red, yellow, and green light foods.

Here’s how you can help your clients do the same.


These are foods that present such a difficult challenge for you that they just aren’t worth the struggle.Red light foods may not work for you because:

  • They don’t help you achieve your goals
  • You always overeat them
  • You’re allergic to them
  • You can’t easily digest them
  • You just don’t like them


Maybe you can eat a little bit of these and stop, or you can eat them under control at a restaurant with others but not at home alone.


These are nutritious and make your body and mind feel good. You can eat them normally, slowly, and in reasonable amounts. Whole foods usually make up most of this list.

Post Author: Dan60smarter

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