Dietary restraint: what's the harm? A review of the relationship between dietary restraint, weight trajectory and the development of eating pathology

Clin Obes. 2016 Apr;6(2):89-100. doi: 10.1111/cob.12134. Epub 2016 Feb 3.


Dietary restraint has historically been implicated as a risk factor for the development of eating pathology. Despite existing findings, recent research suggests that many individuals are capable of practicing dietary restraint without negative effects. In order to successfully incorporate the positive aspects of dietary restraint into interventions for healthy weight management, a nuanced examination of the relationship between dietary restraint and resulting eating patterns is necessary. Accordingly, the current review seeks to clarify the existing literature with regard to dietary restraint. First, this review examines the construct of dietary restraint and differentiates dietary restraint from related constructs, such as weight loss dieting. Second, it identifies situations in which dietary restraint has been linked with positive outcomes, such as healthy weight management and prevention of eating pathology. Altogether, it appears that dietary restraint can prove a beneficial strategy for those attempting to control their weight, as it does not relate to increased levels of eating pathology when practiced as part of a well-validated weight management programme.

Keywords: Dietary restraint; dieting; eating disorders; obesity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Weight*
  • Caloric Restriction
  • Cognition
  • Diet, Reducing / adverse effects*
  • Diet, Reducing / psychology*
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / etiology*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors
  • Self-Control