Dieting Does Not Lead to Binge Eating for Obese Women

Author: Susan Farley

Contrary to findings that obese women who diet may be at risk for a binge-eating disorder, a recently published article reported that these women were no more likely to lapse into binge eating than obese women who do not diet. This finding is important because previous reports citing the prevalence of binge eating may have dissuaded some obese women from dieting. Researchers studied 123 obese women who were dieting and followed their progress for 40 weeks. At the start, these women were not binge eating and showed no symptoms of depression. They were randomly assigned to one of 3 groups: one with a restricted 1200- to 1500-kcal/day diet based on the Food Pyramid; a second group with a 1000-kcal/day, 12-week liquid diet followed by a restricted calorie diet for the rest of the study; or a third group that did not diet at all. At the halfway point, women on the liquid diet had lost an average of 12% of their weight; the group following Food Pyramid guidelines had lost ~8% of their body weight; and those in the nondiet group had lost <1% of their body weight. By week 28, some of the women in the liquid diet group had experienced episodes of binge eating, but there were no significant differences in binge eating among the 3 groups at the end of the study, and none of the women had developed a binge-eating disorder. Thomas A. Wadden, PhD, one of the study's authors, concluded: "These findings will not make it easier for people to diet or lose weight. However, they should reduce individuals' worries that dieting is harmful in precipitating binge eating or other adverse consequences."