Weight loss pivots on ‘flexible’ as opposed to ‘rigid’ control

The relationship between dietary restraint and failure to lose weight pivots around the issue of ‘rigid’ as opposed to ‘flexible’ control of eating. If you want to understand why around 90% of people can’t stick to diets the answer lies in people restricting what they eat too much – the so-called ‘restrained eater’. Not all restraint is problematic, no restraint at all is how we gained weight in the first place! No, there is a particular kind of restraint that expalins why most weight loss plans fail. Don’t believe me, here the words from the world experts on the subject:

“… there is no relationship between dietary restraint per se and disinhibited or disordered eating patterns. Rather, this relationship depends on the predominant type of restrained eating. If eating behavior is primarily rigidly controlled, this pattern of restraint is associated with more disturbed eating patterns, for example, binge eating. In the long run, this type of restraint is not helpful in weight reduction or weight maintenance. If the restrained eating behavior is more flexibly controlled, then this type of restraint is associated with less disturbed eating behavior, lower body weight, and more successful weight reduction and maintenance.”*

Rigid control is all about attempting to totally avoid sweets or other favourite foods while trying to lose weight. It’s about having inflexible rules and prohibitions. It’s about creating a state of deprivation and craving for loved foods that slowly, but very surely, begins the process of self-sabotage that will bring the diet undone. This is how our mind responds to dietary deprivation. You can be as sure of this as you are about the sun rising tomorrow. So what is ‘flexible restraint’? Well, there’s a great book on exactly that issue … 🙂

*I have added the italics. From: Joachim Westenhoefer & Albert J. Stunkard et al, Validation of the Flexible and Rigid Control Dimensions of Dietary Restraint International, Journal of Eating Disorders, 1999 Vol 26 (p 53-64).