Excess weight gain during pregnancy could be the result of women running out of self-control

21 July 2014

Pregnancy health eating

Deakin University psychology researchers are undertaking a world-first study into why pregnant women struggle to maintain a healthy diet despite being highly motivated to do so, and are calling on pregnant women across Australia to take part in the research.

"Data from our previous studies clearly shows that it is not a lack of motivation to eat well that causes around half of pregnant women to put on excess weight," said Deakin psychology lecturer Emily Kothe. 

"Mothers want to eat well for their, and their baby's health.  But something is stopping them from being able to translate their motivation for healthy eating into action."

Dr Kothe believes the reason may lie in a limit to the amount of self-control these women have to spend on controlling their food choices.

"We know that we only achieve about 47 per cent of all the things we intend to do, partly due to lapses in self-control that make it hard to act on our intentions even when we're motivated," Dr Kothe said.

"So we all have a self-control limit which is more likely to be reached when we're stressed or tired or have been paying a lot of attention to controlling our behaviour. It is possible that with all of the extra things that women have to deal with while pregnant, they simply reach the limit of their self-control when it comes to what they eat."

The Deakin study is the first to look specifically at whether a lapse of self-control might explain why some women struggle to maintain healthy diet during pregnancy.

"Through our study we are wanting to find out why such a motivated group of women struggle so much when it comes to maintaining a healthy diet," Dr Kothe said.

"The results will help to identify women who are at particular risk of slipping into poor eating patterns during pregnancy and to make sure that those women get effective support to meet their own healthy eating goals.

"We are looking for women who are currently pregnant to take part in an online survey – so women from all around Australia can easily participate."

To take part in the study go to https://www.facebook.com/eating.for.two.study

 

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