Flexible vs. Rigid dieting strategies: relationship with adverse behavioral outcomes

Appetite. 1999 Jun;32(3):295-305. doi: 10.1006/appe.1998.0204.


This study was designed to test the hypothesis that different types of dieting strategies are associated with different behavioral outcomes by investigating the relationship of dieting behaviors with overeating, body mass and mood. A sample of 223 adult male and female participants from a large community were studied. Only a small proportion of the sample (18%) was seeking weight loss treatment, though almost half (49.3%) of the subjects were significantly overweight (body mass index, BMI>30). Subjects were administered questionnaires measuring dietary restraint, overeating, depression and anxiety. Measurements of height and weight were also obtained in order to calculate BMI. Canonical correlation was performed to evaluate the relationship of dietary restraint variables with overeating variables, body mass, depression and anxiety. The strongest canonical correlation (r=0.65) was the relationship between flexible dieting and the absence of overeating, lower body mass and lower levels of depression and anxiety. The second strongest canonical correlation (r=0.59) associated calorie counting and conscious dieting with overeating while alone and increased body mass. The third canonical correlation (r=0.57) found a relationship between low dietary restraint and binge eating. The results support the hypothesis that overeating and other adverse behaviors and moods are associated with the presence or absence of certain types of dieting behavior.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect*
  • Anxiety
  • Body Mass Index
  • Depression
  • Diet, Reducing*
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged