Monday, October 15, 2007

Adverse side effects of dieting messages

A study shows them to be effective, for instance in fostering weight concerns and eating disorders. The effects of dieting messages on psychological and weight control variables have been assessed in more than a hundred volunteers. Randomly assigned, a third of them has received a pro-dieting message, another third an anti-dieting message, and the rest a non diet-related control message. It came out that the pro-dieting message increased the intentions of bulimia and other eating disorders, produced a pressure to lose weight and left the subjects less satisfied with their body appearance. On the other hand, the anti-dieting message lowered the intentions of bulimia.

The conclusion of the study authors is interesting:

"The findings provide initial support for the short-term efficacy of the prodieting message to increase healthy eating behaviors; however, immediate increases in established risk factors for eating pathology also emerged."
With "healthy eating behaviour", the authors obviously mean "eating healthy food", whatever this may be. For instance, eating less fat and avoiding certain foods that are considered “unhealthy", but the side effects of such a behaviour put a big question mark over this behaviour.

The problem with public dieting messages is that they reach all people, regardless of their body weight, and raise weight concerns in people who should not be concerned at all. And when I look at those around me, I see that dieting and weight loss messages do reach the wrong people.

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