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Discuss explanations for the success and/or failure of dieting (24
One explanation for the failure of dieting is the Restraint Theory. This suggests
that disinhibition causes us to eat more trying not to eat as much. It can be
explained using the boundary model (Herman and Polivy 1984). According to
this model, we have a hunger line to keep us from eating to little and a satiety line
to prevent us from eating too much. The difference is, when we are dieting, the
distance between these two lines increases. This leads to us waiting too long
before eating and then needing to eat mo9re in order to feel satisfied.
Wardle and Beales (1988) support the restraint theory in a study that put twenty
seven obese women into three groups diet, exercise, nontreatment. Results
from two assessments showed that women in the diet condition ate more than
women in both of the other conditions. However, this study only focuses on
women so the idea that we eat more whilst dieting can't be generalised to men.
This theory can therefore be used to explain the failure of some dieting. For
example, when obesity treatment involves restraining from eating, we often see
the treatment fail. This could be due to the reasons in the boundary model.
Research into dieting is culturally bias as it is based upon Europeans whereas it
is said that Asians have a natural inclination to obesity. Misra (2007) said there
is evidence that young Asians have a greater central fat mass than Europeans
and therefore they could find it harder to diet.
Finally, most studies into this area involve people's personal accounts of how
their diet went (anecdotal evidence). This can be unreliable as the participants
memory is unlikely to be completely accurate but also because it is based on
each individual's perception of success or failure which is bound to be different
to another person's perception.
The second explanation for the failure of dieting is the role of denial. This
suggests that attempting to suppress thoughts of food is actually
counterproductive and makes you think about it more. Similarly, the theory of
ironic processes of mental control says that as soon as we tell ourselves we
shouldn't eat a certain food, that forbidden food then becomes more attractive.
This is supported by Soetens (2006) who split up participants into restrained and
unrestrained groups and then again into those with high or low disinhibition. He
found that restrained eaters, who eat too much, try to think about food less but in
turn think about it more afterwards.
On the other hand, Wegner (1994) admits the existence of the `ironic effect' but
argues that it isn't particularly huge as experimental effects go. However, as it
can lead to more serious eating behaviours, it could be considered as
overwhelming within day to day life in the real world.
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Another factor we have to consider is the effect of our genetic mechanisms. We
have a gene that codes for Lipoprotein Lipase (LPL) and this is produced to
store calories. Kern (1990) found that when people diet, the fatter they were
before hand, the more LPL their body produces, which could explain how it is
more difficult for them to be a successful dieter and keep the weight off.
One suggested alternative is an antidieting programme.…read more