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More PsychNotes: Aging and Lifespan Issues

December 2, 2015       
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The Truth about Aging and Dieting
by Monica A. Frank, PhD

One good thing about aging is that older adults can stick to a diet better than younger adults. One of the more common causes of dieting failure is the use of food to regulate emotions. Older adults are better at managing emotional reactions and less likely to feel bad about themselves due to a diet failure. Instead of becoming discouraged by diet lapses and eating more they tend to control eating better. Instead of “I failed in my diet today. I'll start over tomorrow” they are more likely to think “I'll try to do better for the rest of the day.”

The researchers followed a group of women for six weeks on a low-calorie diet (1200 calories a day) and found that the greater ability to regulate emotions in older adults was not related to having more experience with diets over their lifetimes. In other words, older adults when compared to younger adults with the same amount of experience are still able to manage negative emotions better regarding dieting failures (Hennecke and Freund, 2010).

However, the better ability to manage emotions and follow the diet did not show a greater weight loss in this study most likely because older women require 200-400 fewer calories a day to maintain weight. This would indicate that if the calorie intake had been adjusted by age rather than the same diet for everyone, older women would have lost more weight.

Hennecke, M., & Freund, A. M. (2010, August 16). Staying on and Getting Back on the Wagon: Age-Related Improvement in Self-Regulation During a Low-Calorie Diet. Psychology and Aging. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0019935


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