When confronted with food, restrained eaters have to inhibit the pursuit of the short-term goal of enjoying their food for the sake of the long-term goal of controlling their weight. Thus, restrained eating creates a self-control situation. In the present study we investigated the initiation of effortful self-control by food cues in accordance with the level of restrained eating. We expected that a preceding act of self-control would moderate the association between restrained eating and effortful self-control initiated by food cues. Participants (N = 111) were randomly assigned to a task requiring self-control or a task not requiring self-control. Subsequently, participants were exposed to palatable food, and effortful self-control was measured via heart rate variability (HRV). Restrained eating was associated with enhanced HRV during food exposure after exercising self-control but not after not exercising self-control. The results indicate that maintaining dieting goals results in food cues initiating effortful self-control after a preceding act of self-control. We suggest considering the effect of acts of self-control when modeling the initial steps on the path from food cues to unsuccessful restrained eating.