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date: 25 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter reviews theory and empirical evidence linking dietary restraint to eating pathology. Although prospective studies suggest that dieting increases risk for future onset of eating pathology, experiments suggest that assignment to weight loss and weight maintenance diets reduces eating disorder symptoms. Because these two findings have opposing public health implications, this chapter also considers various explanations for these inconsistent findings. Our analysis suggests that dieting is not a causal risk factor for bulimic pathology, but rather may be a proxy risk factor. We posit that a tendency towards overeating may lead to both dieting and bulimic pathology, which seems to better account for the pattern of observed findings, and propose a number of studies that might help further resolve whether dietary restraint is causally related to the development of eating pathology.

Keywords: binge eating, bulimia nervosa, dietary restraint, dieting, eating disorders, obesity

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