An Introduction to Dieting Part 2

Continuing from last week’s republication of a chapter on diet from the forthcoming women’s book, I want to take a general look at the issues of dietary restraint, disinhibition and rigid versus flexible dieting attitudes.

Restraint, Disinhibition and Dieting Attitudes

When I talked about stress, I mentioned the concepts of restraint and disinhibition and want to briefly address them again here. Dietary restraint generally describes a concern with overall food intake and may also include deliberately restricting food intake to either generate fat loss or avoid fat gain or regain after a diet. A fairly large body of research has identified potential negatives of having high dietary restraint and I mentioned many of those in Chapter 12. At the same time, in the modern environment, the a majority of people have to exert at least some degree of restraint over their food intake to avoid gaining weight.

To lose weight and fat will always require some degree of dietary restraint. This is a problem as restraint is often coupled with disinhibition, the loss of control over food intake in response to various types of stress. This can often set up a cycle alternating between high degrees of restriction/restraint and disinhibition that causes weight gain or diet failure.

This isn’t universal and there is a subgroup who are able to exhibit dietary restraint without disinhibition and who show both better short-term and long-term success. This occurs due to the fact that there are two different types of restraint which are called rigid and flexible restraint (1). While researchers refer to rigid/flexible dieting, I will use the more general rigid/flexible eating. The distinction between the two is critical as rigid restraint (or rigid approaches to dieting) represent one of the single most damaging approaches to fat loss that can occur. I’ll examine specific strategies later in the book and now just want to look at the concepts in general.