If you’re trying to lose weight, you can have your cake and eat it too – as long as you don’t feel guilty about it, a new study suggests.

Psychologists at the University of Canterbury have found people who felt guilty about eating chocolate cake were less successful at maintaining their weight than those who saw it as something to celebrate. In fact, associating chocolate cake with guilt was related to an average weight gain of 2.36 kilograms, compared to 0.36kg for those who enjoyed it guilt-free.

Chocolate cake - Just-Eat.ie

Researchers Roeline Kuijer and Jessica Boyce surveyed nearly 300 people to see whether the association of “guilt” or “celebration” with chocolate cake had any impact on their weight over 18 months. The findings were published in Appetite, where the researchers noted the cultural differences surrounding perceptions of food, and weight control.

People who felt guilty reported a sense of lost control over their eating because they indulged in cake; this led them to drop their weight-loss goals. The guilty eaters did not report any more positive attitudes or stronger intentions to eat healthy, and were not as successful at maintaining their weight. “Enjoyment of food is essential to people’s well-being,” the researchers said in their report, according to the Daily Mail. “This study shows those who consume a ‘forbidden food’ with celebration and view it as a treat do better in terms of weight management. Enjoyment of food should receive more attention than it has in the past.”

Even more reason to enjoy your takeaway guilt free with Just-Eat.ie.