Rigid dietary control, flexible dietary control, and intuitive eating: Evidence for their differential relationship to disordered eating and body image concerns

Eat Behav. 2017 Aug:26:16-22. doi: 10.1016/j.eatbeh.2017.01.008. Epub 2017 Jan 23.


This study aimed to replicate and extend from Tylka, Calogero, and Daníelsdóttir (2015) findings by examining the relationship between rigid control, flexible control, and intuitive eating on various indices of disordered eating (i.e., binge eating, disinhibition) and body image concerns (i.e., shape and weight over-evaluation, body checking, and weight-related exercise motivations). This study also examined whether the relationship between intuitive eating and outcomes was mediated by dichotomous thinking and body appreciation. Analysing data from a sample of 372 men and women recruited through the community, this study found that, in contrast to rigid dietary control, intuitive eating uniquely and consistently predicted lower levels of disordered eating and body image concerns. This intuitive eating-disordered eating relationship was mediated by low levels of dichotomous thinking and the intuitive eating-body image relationship was mediated by high levels of body appreciation. Flexible control predicted higher levels of body image concerns and lower levels of disordered eating only when rigid control was accounted for. Findings suggest that until the adaptive properties of flexible control are further elucidated, it may be beneficial to promote intuitive eating within public health approaches to eating disorder prevention. In addition to this, particular emphasis should also be made toward promoting body acceptance and eradicating a dichotomous thinking style around food and eating.

Keywords: Disordered eating; Flexible control; Intuitive eating; Rigid control.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Body Image / psychology*
  • Diet / psychology*
  • Eating / psychology*
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / epidemiology
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intuition*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Young Adult