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Psychol Assess. 2004 Mar;16(1):51-9.

Are dietary restraint scales valid measures of acute dietary restriction? Unobtrusive observational data suggest not.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, USA.


The finding that dietary restraint scales predict onset of bulimic pathology has been interpreted as suggesting that dieting causes this eating disturbance, despite the dearth of evidence that these scales are valid measures of dietary restriction. The authors conducted 4 studies that tested whether dietary restraint scales were inversely correlated with unobtrusively measured caloric intake. These studies, which varied in foods consumed, settings, and populations, indicated that common dietary restraint scales were largely uncorrelated with acute caloric intake. Results suggest that these scales are not valid measures of short-term dietary restriction and imply that it may be prudent to reinterpret findings from studies thai use these scales, including those that suggest dietary restraint is a risk factor for bulimic pathology.

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