palatable foods

The new year often brings new resolutions, the majority of which are centered around physical health or weight loss, research shows. Diet and nutrition fads flood the internet with promises of quick weight loss, but many dieters find the regimens difficult to maintain.

Instead of focusing solely on a restrictive diet, researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham found that understanding one’s motive behind overeating what they call palatable foods can help predict one’s likelihood to gain or lose weight. 

“Palatable foods are your yummy fast foods, “junk” foods, sweets and snacks that are often consumed for reasons besides hunger, leading to weight gain and obesity,” said Mary Boggiano, Ph.D., associate professor in the UAB Department of Psychology. “There is an assumption that those who overeat these foods, or eat when not hungry, do so solely due to an emotional or coping reason; but that is not the case.”

In 2014, Boggiano’s lab created the Palatable Eating Motives Scale, or PEMS, which measured the frequency and reasoning behind why people overconsumed palatable food. The scale divides people into one of four motives categories — coping, reward enhancement, social and conformity.

While PEMS began as a clinical tool for those who are overweight or obese, Boggiano says it is also used in weight loss intervention programs to better tailor the program to the individual.

“PEMS helps people recognize what their motives are behind overeating palatable foods,” Boggiano said. “Once someone is aware of their motives, they can start to take steps to adjust those motives, break certain habits and create better ones.”

Read More at the UAB News