Do People Regret Their Unhealthy Behaviors?

Written By Claire C

This article by Louise Lee discusses some of the psychology behind guilt related to unhealthy behaviors. It specifically analyzes current research regarding the role of regret in dietary choices. 

Find the original article here: Do People Regret Their Unhealthy Behaviors? 

The Bird’s Eye View:

  • New research shows that level of regret before indulging in unhealthy food behaviors may be higher than after actually consuming the food
  • Conducted a field study of 400 diners at Taverna Banfi, a restaurant known for its dessert buffet
  • Found that levels of food regret peak before unhealthy behavior occurs

Hot vs. Cold Regret:

  • Cold regret: distant and unemotional regret that occurs when you think about engaging in an undesirable behavior
    • Since you’re able to be temporally distant from the behavior, you can evaluate the choice calmly and deliberately
    • This produces a type of anticipated regret
    • Can also be related to behaviors that occurred a long time ago
  • Hot regret: emotional and defensive regret that occurs immediately after an undesirable behavior
    • Often causes a state of denial in order to protect your ego and identity after engaging in behavior that might threaten your sense of self
    • This denial often decreases the beneficial effects of regrets (such as helping you remember and avoid the same behaviors in the future) 

The Specifics of Food Regret:

  • Food related regret functions to help us modify our behavior 
    • Specifically helpful in changing habits related to unhealthy or undesirable food choices, such as overeating
  • In the study mentioned, researchers split diners into the anticipated or cold regret group (took survey before eating) and the experienced or hot regret group (took survey after eating )
  • Results showed that levels of regret were significantly higher in the anticipated surveys compared to the experienced surveys
    • This difference was greater in participants who were trying to lose weight
    • This is most likely because participants who were trying to lose weight had a hot reaction to eating dessert that suppressed some of their regret

Significance of the Study:

  • Interventions to change eating behavior should be implemented before people engage in unhealthy behaviors
  • This can be applied to most type of unhealthy behaviors, as levels of regret are typically highest before committing any type of undesirable behavior
  • Anticipation of regret can be used as a tool more easily than reflection of regret

How Food Regret Relates to Fasting:

  • As with any type of dietary action, fasting comes with many opportunities to engage in undesirable behaviors
    • This can occur most often in the form of breaking a fast earlier than planned
  • This research indicates that levels of regret before breaking a fast are likely higher than those after breaking a fast
  • Therefore, interventions to decrease your chances of prematurely ending a fast should focus on cold regret that occurs as soon as you anticipate you might break

Other Fasting Flamingo Resources You Might Enjoy:

  • The Hungry Brain – Book Summary
    • This book was clearly written by a PhD — it is not a light one AND as a result, it has the most comprehensive explanation we have ever seen for how our ancient brains are hijacked by our modern world of abundant sugar, processed food chemicals, and marketing tactics.
  • Life in the Fasting Lane – Book Summary
    • A great primer on living fasting as a lifestyle; an excellent choice for beginners, but still enjoyable for a more experienced faster as it includes some refined approaches and new personal stories.
  • The Joy of Fasting – Rumi Poem

Want to learn more?

Do you have content that fits with this blog and would like to share it?

All Topics

fasting flamingo

Read more content like this

Fasting Safely – Here’s what to know

Fasting Safely – Here’s what to know

In this article, Dr. Jason Fung discusses some of the most important things to keep in mind in order to fast in the safest way possible. He discusses some of the most common dangers associated with improper fasting and gives advice on how to prevent these. Most importantly, he discusses the importance of fasting with knowledge and experience and the power of easing into fasting. If you ever feel concerned about your own fasting practices, remember we’re here to help and provide you with advice and resources to make sure you have a positive experience with fasting!

read more
Eat, Fast, Feast

Eat, Fast, Feast

Eat, Fast, Feast – Heal Your Body While Feeding Your Soul – A Christian Guide to Fasting :: Why did most Christians stop fasting? And, is this ancient practice something your should consider adopting to strengthen your connection to God?

read more
The Joy of Fasting – Rumi Poem

The Joy of Fasting – Rumi Poem

There’s hidden sweetness in the stomach’s emptiness.
We are lutes, no more, no less.
If the soundbox
is stuffed full of anything, no music.
If the brain and belly are burning clean
with fasting, every moment a new song comes out of the fire.
The fog clears, and new energy makes you
 run up the steps in front of you.

read more
My favorite Intermittent Fasting Books – The 37 Best & Most Useful

My favorite Intermittent Fasting Books – The 37 Best & Most Useful

In the early 1900s there were a number of book published on fasting, but then there were very few new books on fasting or intermittent fasting until 2002 when Ori Hofmekler came out with The Warrior Diet. Then and starting in 2016 Intermittent Fasting books started popping up everywhere…

read more

Share this post with a friend

fasting flamingo

Leave a message


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.