Reid, Marie and Hammersley, Richard and Rance, J (2005) Restraint, dieting and watching what you eat amongst female students. Nutrition Bulletin , 30 . pp. 120-125. ISSN 1471-9827
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‘Watching what you eat’ has been proposed as an activity distinct from dieting(Nichter et al. 1995), although the two are often conflated in nutritional surveys. This study examined the validity of ‘watching’ by relating it to the psychological trait of dietary restraint, which is defined as concern for dieting and weight fluctuation,using the restraint scale from the Dutch Eating Behaviour Questionnaire (DEBQ) (van Strien et al. 1986). Subjects were 153 female undergraduate students who were asked four questions to assess ‘watching’ and ‘dieting’ behaviours and completed the DEBQ which has three separate scales measuring emotional, external and restrained eating behaviour. The majority of the sample reported sometimes watching what they ate, and this was more common than dieting. Non-watchers had the lowest restraint scores, followed by watchers and dieters who had the highestrestraint scores. It is concluded that ‘watching what you eat’ is a normal form of restrained eating distinct from dieting and that the method of asking four simple questions about dietary behaviour can assess level of restrained eating. This distinction may clarify the difference between ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ dieting.
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