What is Dieting?
Dieting can be defined as “regulating one’s food intake for the purpose of improving one’s physical conditions.” The most common reason to follow a diet is to lose weight, though dieting may also be used to maintain a healthy body weight, or gain weight (usually in the form of muscle).
What is Restrained Eating?
Restrained eating refers to the intention to restrict food intake deliberately in order to prevent weight gain or promote weight loss. It can refer to “chronic dieting” or intentional restrictions of food intake in order to influence body weight, and is often punctuated with episodes of overeating.
What is the difference?
Even though the words “dieting” and “restrained eating” may be used interchangeably, they are not exactly the same thing. While most individuals who identify as “dieters” may be practicing restrained eating, not all restrained eaters identify as currently dieting.
Dieting, for example, can be used to maintain a healthy body weight, or by an athlete who wants to gain weight in the form of muscle. In these cases, food and caloric intake is regulated in order to maintain the body type desired. In situations like this, although food is being regulated, the person is more likely to maintain a positive relationship with food and will not feel overly guilty if they “cheat” or cut themselves a bit of slack one day.
Diets can also be used to improve overall health and a certain diet may be adopted in order to manage a specific health condition. For example, one may be on a certain diet with various food restrictions if they have a heart concern, or are diabetic.
With restrained eating, although the food regulation seems similar to dieting, the person often feels guilty if they do indulge in a food they have deemed “bad” or “forbidden”. Restrained eaters have an obsession with body shape and weight and may use self-judgment in order to propel their weight loss and meet their goals. Because of this mindset, when restrained eaters are presented with foods they have restricted themselves from, and they give in, they will feel guilty and end up overeating, or eating more than they wanted to. They will overindulge as they feel they have already broken their restrictions.
Unlike diets, restrained eating is generally not used to manage a health condition, it is simply to achieve a certain body shape or weight.
Restrained eating is different from disordered eating, however, the measures used to assess restrained eating are often used to assess disordered eating. Restraint can be a risk factor for developing an eating disorder.
When practiced properly and in a healthy way, dieting can be positive, and can help you live a healthy lifestyle. However, when restrained eating goes too far and causes you to feel guilt when you eat certain foods or episodes of overeating, it can become a serious problem. Talk to a professional if you feel your restrained eating is affecting you in a negative way and work with them to develop a plan that is healthier for you.