Who Diets? Most People and Especially When They Worry About Food
1Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands
Background. Dieting is generally not effective in establishing weight loss and research has focused on documenting these negative consequences of dieting. Much less is known about who diets and why people diet. The present study set out to examine the hypothesis that food concerns increase the chance of considering oneself a dieter. Methods. Participants from a community sample (N = 1113) completed an internet survey on dieting and its demographic and psychological correlates, with a specific focus on food concerns. They also completed a 7-day snack diary to determine their food intake. Findings. 63% of the participants qualified as a dieter, defined as having elevated scores on the DEBQ-R restraint scale. Women and older people more often reported to diet, as did people with higher weights. In line with our hypothesis, food concerns (weight concerns and concerns about the diet-health link) were most strongly associated with dieting. Considering oneself as a dieter was very weakly related to actual snack consumption whereas food concerns were unrelated to snack intake. Discussion. Considering oneself as a dieter in terms of endorsing items on a restraint scale is an expression of food concerns that is virtually unaccompanied by changes in snack intake. These findings suggest a reinterpretation of the dieting concept in terms of a strategy for coping with food concerns.