Postprint version. Published in Obesity, Volume 19, Issue 1, January 1, 2011, pages 69-73.
The definitive version is available at https://doi.org/10.1038/oby.2010.138.
Much attention has been paid to the behavioral characteristics of successful weight loss maintenance, but less is known about the cognitive processes that underlie this process. The purpose of this study was to investigate cognitive interference from food-related cues in long-term weight loss maintainers (WLM; N = 15) as compared with normal weight (NW; N = 19) and obese (OB; N = 14) controls. A Food Stroop paradigm was used to determine whether successful WLM differed from controls in both the speed and accuracy of color naming words for low-calorie and high-calorie foods. A significant group × condition interaction for reaction time was observed (P = 0.04). In post hoc analyses, no significant differences in reaction time across the three groups were observed for the low-calorie foods (P = 0.66). However, for the high-calorie foods, WLM showed a significantly slower reaction time than the NW (0.04) and OB (0.009) groups (885 ± 17.6, 834 ± 15.8, 816 ± 18.3 ms, respectively). No significant group differences were seen for number of correct trials in 45 s (P = 0.12). The differential interference among WLM did not appear to generalize to other types of distracters (i.e., nonfood). Overall, findings from this study suggest that WLM differ from OB and NW controls in their cognitive responses to high-calorie food cues. Future research is needed to better understand why this bias exists and whether and how interventions can change cognitive processes to better facilitate long-term weight control.