Restraint theory is a cognitive explanation for obesity proposed by Herman and Mack (1975). Restraint theory suggests that restraint (or trying not to eat) actually leads to overeating. People who use self-control processes to try to suppress their food intake are referred to as restrained eaters, and restraint theory suggests that if these self-control processes are undermined by stressful events, disinhibition of eating is more likely to occur. This leads to an excessive intake of food, that is sometimes known as the ‘what the hell’ effect. This is because the person thinks that they may as well continue eating now they have started.

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