Quick: What’s the first thing you think of after you eat a Clif Bar or a bowl of Wheaties? Do you want more? You wouldn’t be the only one according to a recent study published in the Journal of Marketing Research which states that not only will you eat more of these “fitness foods,” but you will also exercise less. Researchers believe the root of this comes from “fitness branding” where marketers promote their products as “fitness foods” resulting in the mental relaxation of how much food you’re actually consuming, and you’re your physical activity.
I was a little taken back when I saw this. I’m a fan of Quest Bars personally. But I tend to limit myself to one bar a day, and in the case of me eating more than one, I certainly wouldn’t charge it to “well, its fitness food, so it must be OK.”
But then I noticed that “restrained eaters” were used as the subjects of the study. Restrained eaters are eaters who are chronically concerned about their body weight and, probably most importantly, they are susceptible to overeating. This is a stark contrast from a “natural eater” who “usually eats when hungry, stops when sated, and doesn’t think much about food in-between meals.”
Participants were given trail-mix marked both “Fitness” and “Trail Mix,” and were told to “pretend that they were at home helping themselves to an afternoon snack.” Then, they were given eight minutes to taste and rate the product. Now even though the study wanted to see how the branding of the snacks would affect the eaters, wouldn’t the type of eater they are also play a factor into how they would react?
Studies have been conducted between the correlation between obesity and restrained eating, partially because being a restrained eater could lead to overeating. Signals of hunger, satiety, and other factors that play a role in how you eat aren’t necessarily concise with a restrained eater. However, it is in the natural eaters’ nature to only eat when they have to, no more no less.
The study’s ultimate goal was to have marketers of these products do a better job of including other fitness cues that are a part of being healthy as well as letting people know that there is more to fitness than just the products they are marketing. But don’t we know that? What do you think?