Monday, March 17, 2008

Effects of dieting on eating control

Dieting causes problems with the control of food intake. Attempting to diet results in increased calorie consumption in certain situations. Dieters feel more out of control than non- dieters, and experience chaotic eating patterns.

Dieters aim to eat less and to control their food intake. Women often attribute their perceived 'large size' to their inability to eat appropriately, believing that the reason why they are over their desired weight is because they overeat. Women look at other people's eating behaviour and believe that they eat less and at different times and understand their own behaviour in terms of loss of control. Dieting is regarded as a means to impose self- control and an external structure on their food intake. However, there is no evidence to suggest that, before dieting, women who are over their desired weight eat any differently or experience more episodes of loss of control than women who are at their desired weight. There is no evidence to suggest that larger women are more out of control than their thinner counterparts, or that women who decide to diet have experienced more overeating than those who don't.

Diet Start

However, there is evidence to suggest that dieting increases episodes of both perceived and actual loss of control. Imposing the dieting structure on food intake appears to have the opposite to the desired effect.

Perceived loss of control

Because of the limitations set by the diet, any food which is eaten beyond these limits is regarded as overeating and attributed to loss of control. Eating which would usually be seen as a large meal, a special occasion or a treat is regarded as overeating and indicative of lost control. The urge to eat which would usually be regarded as hunger is registered in terms of craving, and giving in to this urge is regarded as a weakness.

One woman said: 'When I start to diet I want to eat things I shouldn't eat. I want to buy fattening foods when I know I am on a diet.' She did not eat any more than before she began to diet; however, desires to eat certain foods are perceived as being a problem.

Actual loss of control

One of the main effects of dieting is that it contributes to actual loss of control over eating. Dieting causes increases in the preoccupation with food, making food more attractive, it alters responses to food, resulting in certain foods becoming 'forbidden', which triggers specific states of mind, and it causes mood changes. All these contribute to actual loss of control and result in the dieter eating more than she would have if she hadn't dieted in the first place.

One woman said that she found the diet very difficult. 'I feel depressed about dieting. I overate to start off with, felt depressed and then ate more. I felt that eating would make me happier, but I just felt guilty and wanted more to eat.' Dieting resulted in her eating more than if she had not tried to diet in the first place.

Another woman said: 'I can't cope at the moment with the feelings of deprivation that I get when I go on a diet. It wells up inside me and I panic and eat.' The diet made her feel deprived, and so even though she wasn't eating less, she then ate more to compensate.

Dieting aims to control food intake and to reduce food consumption. It aims to impose a structure on the dieter's behaviour and to result in weight loss. It doesn't appear to achieve either of these aims. The cognitive and emotional changes which occur as a response to dieting undermine attempts at eating less, and cause overeating, the very behaviour dieters are trying to avoid.

... andjoyohoxing