We are delighted to have our new PhD student and new member of the Research Centre, commencing her research work and activities on Chronic Dieting, Behaviour Change and Physical and Mental Health in Adults. Please see below some information on Salome’s research and look out for opportunities to participate in her first cross-sectional study on chronic dieting starting this summer.

Chronic dieting syndrome (CDS) was first defined in the literature in the 1990s by Grodner who described chronic dieting syndrome by the following three characteristics; A) persistent overconcern with body shape and weight, B) restriction of food choices for two years or more C) over a two-year period, continual dieting to lose weight but without success (weight gained back) (1990, Grodner). Later McCargar and McBurney in 1999 introduced the “chronic dieting syndrome” and its metabolic and behavioral characteristics of this phenomenon (McCargar et al., 1999). Chronic dieting appears to be more prevalent in females, with adverse metabolic and hormonal effects leading to menstrual disturbances and osteoporosis (Lowe and Levine, 2005; Polivy and Herman, 2017; Van Loan and Keim, 2000). Moreover, it increases the risk for clinical eating disorders, body dysmorphia and compulsive exercise, significantly affecting mental health and well-being (Poppis 2018; Watson and Le Pelley, 2021).

Chronic dieters often experience weight cycling, i.e., repeated weight loss and subsequent weight gain as a result of multiple dieting attempts (Jacquet et al., 2020). However, it’s shown that weight fluctuation is closely associated with an increased risk of hypertension and lower glucose tolerance (Oh et al., 2019). In addition, it has adverse psychological consequences, such as lower life satisfaction (Schnettler et al., 2017), low self-esteem, or a higher incidence of binge eating (Brown & Kuk, 2015). In addition to the above, the feeling of failure and shame that is associated with constant dieting can lead to psychological problems and mood disturbances (e.g., a higher risk of developing depression) (Chaput et al., 2007). Moreover, constant feelings of hunger are experienced during dieting, compulsive thoughts around food (Bacon & Aphramor 2011) and binging when food is available again (Andrés & Saldaña 2014). Individuals who engage in CDS may manifest some but not all the behaviors associated with certain types of eating disorders. They would not be diagnosed with eating disorder based on Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders but may be at risk for developing it in the future.

To this date the chronic dieting syndrome hasn’t been methodologically concisely explored and placed on the spectrum of eating pathologies but due to its contribution to mental health disturbances or the development of clinical eating disorders its presence cannot be dismissed and ought to be further researched. Defining and measuring such qualities as restrained eating or chronic dieting may require more than simply administering questionnaires and assuming that we are identifying the population that we wish to study. Different questionnaires may identify different types of restrained eaters, and even deciding what restrained eating consists of is a complicated endeavour (Polivy 2020). Part of the challenge is that the phrase ‘chronic dieting syndrome’ has been absent from the literature in the time period of early 2000s and there are several terms used to identify the same problem.

The purpose of this research project is to:

  • Redefine and reframe chronic dieting syndrome (CDS)
  • Explore the underlining mechanism and risk factors or predictive parameters to CDS
  • To investigate the effectiveness of behavioral interventions on CDS and associated mental and physical parameters

For more information and opportunities to participate as a research collaborator or participant please email Salome at S.Kurucz@brighton.ac.uk or her supervisor Dr. Fenia Giannopoulou at: i.giannopoulou@brighton.ac.uk


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