Research: Controlling cravings predict weight loss success.


Increased control of cravings reduces the drive to overconsume too much food.

Hungry and craving.
Hungry and craving.

Having a hankering for a particular food is hard to resist. Generally, it is well accepted that the overconsumption of foods is probably the top reason for weight gain. Exercise is important, but it has such a minor effect on your calorie balance. Loss of control and the resulting binger in eating will undermine long-term weight loss.

Today, energy-dense foods that are full of highly processed sugars are fats that are found everywhere. It is important to identify your triggers and avoid overconsumption of calorically dense foods during weight loss attempts. A study from 2019 examined psychological predictors of overconsumption in response to these high-energy dense meals during any weight loss attempt​[1]​.

In the study, researchers enrolled nearly 100 women that were overweight and had volunteered to participate in a healthy eating based weight loss program. Bodyweight was measured both before and after the intervention (weeks 1 and 14). After a two-week period, resting metabolic rate and psychometric eating behavior traits were assessed to determine predictors of weight loss failure. They also had days in which the volunteers were allowed to eat foods that were higher in energy density. The percentage difference between total daily energy intake and estimated daily energy requirements determined overconsumption.

The researchers found that participants overconsumed by 33% on average. Also, low craving control was the only psychometric trait that significantly predicted overconsumption. Overconsumption on the high energy density day was a significant predictor of percentage weight change at week 14.

The bottom line: Patients who fall prey to cravings for high energy-dense foods are at a higher risk of failing to lose weight. These findings highlight the importance of identifying individuals susceptible to food cravings and developing strategies to manage cravings for processed foods during weight loss attempts. The results are not a surprise. I would like to see some research on how to prevent cravings.


  1. [1]
    N. Buckland, D. Camidge, F. Croden, J. Lavin, R. J. Stubbs, and G. Finlayson, “Craving control is the strongest psychological predictor of overconsumption in response to high energy density meals in women engaged in weight loss,” OB, Sep. 2019, doi: 10.1530/obabs.01.p30. [Online]. Available:
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About the Author

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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