Premature drop-out from treatment is a highly prevalent phenomenon among eating disorder (ED) patients. In a specialized inpatient treatment unit a major change was made in the admission strategy in 2001, giving a maximum of personal choice to the patients. A quasi-experimental research was carried out comparing 87 patients treated till 2000 (‘old’ strategy) with 87 patients treated from 2001 on (‘new’ strategy). The results indicate that the provision of choice at the beginning of treatment significantly reduced drop-out during the first weeks of inpatient treatment. No differences between both strategies on later drop-out and weight change (in anorexia nervosa patients) during inpatient treatment were found. The results are discussed in the light of the importance placed on dynamics of personal choice, autonomy and volition within the framework of the self-determination theory (SDT). Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and Eating Disorders Association.