diets and weight loss

Diet Not Working? Try This

New study shows “restrained eating” beats dieting for weight loss.

Diet Not Working? Try This

To improve the way you eat, keep track of what you're eating.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—There are lots of things in this world that can pack on the pounds—stress, lack of exercise, the unhealthy food we shove down on our way home from work. And now you can add dieting to the list. A new study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association has found that postmenopausal women are less likely to lose weight on a diet than they would if they became “restrained eaters,” people who watch what they eat but don’t focus their efforts on a short-term diet program.

THE DETAILS: A total of 1,071 women (average age 60) participated in the study. They were asked survey questions about eating habits and how prone they were to lose control over how much they ate, as well as whether they were currently on a diet. The researchers then calculated each participant’s body-mass index (BMI), an indicator of obesity. As a whole, women who were on diets had higher BMIs than the restrained eaters. Women on diets were also more likely to lose control over what they ate. Their scores on that portion of the survey were, on average, 40 percent higher than the restrained nondieters.

WHAT IT MEANS: Slow and steady wins the weight-loss race, not 3-week binge cures that claim to melt away pounds in minutes. And even though the dieters in this study weighed more than the nondieters, it is possible to go on a diet and see your weight fall. You just have think of the diet as a way to learn long-term eating strategies. “When you approach dieting with the perspective that you’re making lifestyle changes, you’ll be more successful,” says Jeannie Gazzaniga-Moloo, RD, PhD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association with a clinical practice in the Sacramento area.

Diet or no, here are a few ways to make healthy, long-term improvements in your eating habits:

Filed Under: WEIGHT LOSS

Published on: May 11, 2009

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Correlation vs. cause-and-effect

From what I can tell from the journal article's abstract (, the study was on correlation, not causality. Your statement "A new study... has found that postmenopausal women are less likely to lose weight on a diet than they would if they became 'restrained eaters,'" is quite misleading! From what I can see from the abstract, this study shows a LINK between BMI and whether a woman is on a diet or a 'restrained eater', NOT cause and effect. Common sense would say that overweight people are more likely to go on "diets" than "healthy weight" people. It's a chicken-and-egg thing.

Rodale, please be careful about stating the facts correctly.

(The above comment is based on what I can glean from the abstract; accept my apologies if I'm off track here.)

restrained eating

Hi Phyllis, good question. Restrained eating is best understood as monitoring what you eat and limiting your calories or fat or other factors, without following a specific diet or trying to lose a certain amount of weight in a specific time frame. It does overlap with dieting, but has more to do with long term, health eating habits. My guess is that there are some diets that help you become a "restrained eater" and these are probably the ones that work best in the long term. (Becoming a "restrained eater" doesn't sound like a very appealing goal; I think they should come up with another term, like "healthy eater" or "clever and wise person with a nice personality.")


This article is interesting but I would have appreciated an explanation of what is meant by the term "restrained eating." How is it different from dieting? Thank you for your attention.

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