The effects of meal skipping on bulimic symptoms : a randomized experiment
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Theories, including the dietary restraint model, posit that cognitive control over eating, rather than physical satiety cues, increases vulnerability to uncontrolled eating (Polivy & Herman, 1985). Prospective studies endorse this theory, finding that dieting increases risk for bulimic symptoms. Yet experiments suggest that dieting decreases bulimic symptoms. One possible explanation for the conflicting findings is that real world dieting involves less healthy weight control techniques than prescribed diets, such as meal skipping. The current study manipulated number of meals per day with young women (N=132), holding other dietary factors constant, to examine whether meal skipping resulted in greater increases in bulimic symptoms than a diet encouraging many small meals or a wait list condition. Participants in both 6-week dieting conditions lost more weight than controls, indicating that dieting was successfully manipulated. While the two dieting conditions displayed significant reductions in bulimic symptoms over time, there was no time-by-condition interaction. The two dieting conditions did display reductions in evaluative concerns compared to Wait List (WL). The two dieting conditions also had a decrease in disinhibition, hunger, and body dissatisfaction compared to the control. Results suggest neither form of dieting promote bulimic symptoms, and in fact reduce evaluative concerns.