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Using a brief mindfulness strategy to reduce chocolate consumption. An exploration of effects and mediators

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DOI: 10.1016/j.appet.2013.06.039


This study examined the effects of a cognitive defusion strategy on chocolate consumption and explored the hypotheses that cognitive defusion works by (a) reducing automatic links between chocolate-related thoughts and chocolate consumption, and (b) increasing the accessibility of competing goals in response to chocolate-related thoughts. Female chocolate lovers (n=113) were allocated to an intervention (cognitive defusion) or a control (relaxation or no task) condition. A 5-day diary was completed by all participants to provide a baseline measure of chocolate consumption. Participants then completed three habits questionnaires assessing whether chocolate consumption was an automatic response to certain thoughts (e.g., ‘I need something sweet’), as well as two lexical decision tasks assessing whether such thoughts primed (a) the word ‘chocolate’ and (b) words related to conflicting goals (e.g., ‘weight’). The intervention group was then taught a cognitive defusion task to help them resist chocolate over the next 5days whilst the control group was either taught a relaxation technique or provided with no strategy. All participants were asked to keep a transparent bag of chocolates with them at all times and record consumption of chocolate-related products in a second diary. At the end of 5days participants repeated the questionnaires and priming tasks. Results failed to show any effects of the cognitive defusion task on either chocolate consumption, the habits questionnaires or the priming tasks. Further research is needed to establish the conditions under which cognitive defusion strategies assist self-control related behaviours, as well as identify the mechanisms of change.

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