Eating Disorder Recovery
Joanna Poppink, MFT
Eating Disorder Recovery Psychotherapist
serving Arizona, California, Florida, Oregon and Utah.
All appointments are virtual.

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If you suffer from an eating disorder now or have in the past, please email Joanna for a free telephone consultation.


The Los Angeles Times ran an article about how dieters are fooled by food labels into eating less nourishing and more caloric food than non dieters.

Have you been caught in this trap?

Dieters are more fooled by misleading health labels than people who don’t obsess about calories, a new study suggests. Dieters believed a heap of pasta shells, mozzarella and salami was healthier if it was called a “salad” instead of “pasta.” They also ate more jelly beans than non-dieters if they were presented as “fruit chews” instead of “candy.”

Dr. Caglar Irmak, an assistant professor at the Darla Moore School of Business, University of South Carolina studies how people make food choices and how they infer the health qualities of food.

He’s neither a nutritionist nor an eating disorder expert so his evaluations come from a different perspective. He says dieters may overeat food labeled as healthy because the dieter believes the food with the healthier label tastes better.  e.g. “fruit chews” taste better than “candy chews.” He also says that the healthy label may give dieters an excuse to eat and then they eat more.

But aren’t we really looking at mental games you play when you have an eating disorder? You want to be healthy. You want to eat because you need to binge or because you’ve been starving or because you are anxious and want food comfort. When the food label says, “healthy,” or “low fat” or switches words as in the fruit rather than candy chew example, you want to believe you have permission to indulge.

My hunch is that you might experience a better taste from such foods because you are free of guilt or inhibition, at least for a while.

The study showed that while watching a movie, dieters given jelly beans that were called “fruit chews” ate more jelly beans than the non-dieters.

Are you surprised?  I’m not. If the dieters, whether they have an eating disorder or not, are restricting and deprived, they will enjoy sudden freedom in their perceived permission to eat. If they have an eating disorder, their food obsession may kick in.

Irmak is quoted as saying, These findings were…”kind of astonishing to us because it’s ironic.”  “They (dieters) try to be healthy, but because of that goal, they’re actually eating less healthy.”

Are these findings astonishing to you?


How to Understand and Use the Nutrition Facts Label

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