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New Dieting Definitions Feed New Dieting Test

An eating-problem research and support organisation has developed a unique dieting behaviour self-test to help dieters identify their relationships with food and eating.

The free tool to help pinpoint personal eating issues is underpinned by a radical new view of what persistent dieters' lifestyles actually comprise.

Weight-control charity The Weight Foundation's re-evaluation of the nature and extent of dieting springs from its findings to date that many more individuals lead dieting-dominated lives than is commonly recognised.

Detailed interviews with over 500 persistent dieters from several countries has allowed the creation of The Hardcore Dieting Index self-diagnostic questionnaire.

The Manchester UK-based group has developed its own concept of what it calls Hardcore Dieters – people whose lives are dominated by weight-loss, eating and self-image issues. Its new test, which is now underpinned by over 4 years of campaigning for natural weight-control strategies, helps long-term dieters to asess their own potential problem areas.

As well as conducting its own international research, the non-commercial organisation is also informed by a Ph.D project being run at Manchester Metropolitan University by its founder, 46 year old Cambridge social sciences graduate Malcolm Evans.

“Far too many people suffer miserable lives divorced from a relaxed relationship with food and eating. The key to lasting weight control is not permanent dieting but rather holding food only as a necessary tool of life, not its master,” says Evans.

Within the overall notion of Hardcore Dieting are three specific categories. “Swinger Dieting” is the term which is nearest to the classic idea of Yo-Yo Dieting. Evans explains that these are the type of people normally evoked when the term “dieters” is used. In his experience the relationship between losing and gaining can be more erratic and variable, subject to a number of factors – and hence he prefers the looser idea of a Swinger Dieter. Whatever the precise mechanics and what it is called, this kind of physical roller-coaster is also a distressing emotional roller-coaster.

“Flatliner Dieters” are said to live their lives as if just about every day is a mini-Swinger cycle between “good” foods and “bad” foods and between a feeling of overeating and a sense of deprivation. Never really comfortable around food and eating issues, they are so-named for two reasons. Firstly, they may not show the jagged peaks and troughs of dramatically varying weights, tending to remain largely constant by physical size. Secondly, they are often “flatlining” through their lives, having the emotional heart knocked out of them by stormy and distressing relationships with food, eating and dieting. Flatliners tend to suffer in silence, often embarrassed by the lack of control at the centre of their lives. Evans' specific doctoral research is concerned mainly with the cultural and emotional pressures that drag and trap people into dieting lifestyles.

“Lifer Dieting” describes those dieters who never or rarely come off a diet, even though the precise diet may change. Lifers fear that letting go of strict dieting control might spell disaster. Lifers, finds The Weight Foundation, often try to recruit new prisoners to a full-time dieting lifestyle because sharing the misery somehow helps to make sense of it.

Through his extensive work with dieters, Evans has come to recognise the Flatiner ( “messy wavering”) and Lifer (“painful maintaining”) groups and to realize that these sizable numbers of people largely sit outside conventional dieting definitions.

“The Hardcore Dieting Index is both a product of all our research to date and is also continuing to drive fresh research. It will continue to evolve but we think it's value is to empower dieters with self-knowledge about individual behaviors and hence present remedial options. This is intended to be quite the opposite of risking pathologising problem dieters by pinning quasi-medical conditions on them,” concludes Evans.

The Weight Foundation seeks to develop solutions which emphasise natural eating rhythms and an unravelling of the societal drivers to overeating, avoiding artificial dieting interventions.

Malcolm Evans | alfa
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