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Behav Res Ther. 2013 Sep;51(9):519-25. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2013.06.001. Epub 2013 Jun 22.

Food for thought: a pilot study of the pros and cons of changing eating patterns within cognitive-behavioural therapy for the eating disorders.

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  • 1Clinical Psychology Unit, Department of Psychology, University of Sheffield, Western Bank, Sheffield S10 2NT, UK.


Evidence-based cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) for the eating disorders has an early focus on behavioural changes around food intake. However, patients' anxiety around such change might account for why they often seem unmotivated in treatment. In order to determine the impact of changing intake, this pilot study of patients with bulimic disorders (N = 19) or anorexia nervosa (N = 9) used a mixed quantitative and qualitative design to retrospectively examine their perspectives of the short- and long-term pros and cons of such change. As expected, change was seen negatively in the short-term (with particularly high numbers reporting anxiety), but there were few reports of long-term negative outcomes. In contrast, there were both short- and long-term benefits of changing eating. The patients described what was helpful in making changes and what they had learned as a result. In both cases, their descriptions mapped closely onto the content and process of evidence-based CBT for the eating disorders. Although there is a need for more extensive research, these findings suggest that patients (and therapists) might benefit from being aware of the contrast between the short- and the long-term pros and cons of changing eating within CBT for the eating disorders.


Anxiety; Cognitive behavioural therapy; Eating disorders; Motivation; Qualitative; Quantitative

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