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Keywords:

  • dieting;
  • non-dieting programs;
  • weight;
  • prejudice;
  • bias

Abstract

Objective: To examine changes in obesity-related attitudes in a sample of obese women who participated in either dieting or non-dieting interventions.

Research Methods and Procedures: A total of 123 obese women were randomly assigned to one of three weight control programs: meal replacement diet, balanced deficit diet, or a non-dieting program. (The first two groups were combined as a single dieting condition.) Participants completed questionnaires (at baseline, Week 20, and Week 40) to assess beliefs and attitudes about obesity, along with measures of self-esteem, depression, and body image.

Results: At Weeks 20 and 40, participants in the non-dieting condition reported significantly less negativity about obesity than those in the dieting group. Women in the dieting condition did not report an increase in negative attitudes toward obesity, despite losing significantly more weight than non-dieting participants. Both groups experienced improvements in self-esteem, body image, and depressive symptoms. Improvement in self-esteem was associated with a reduction in negativity about obesity and with improvements in body image.

Discussion: The non-dieting program produced greater reductions in negative attitudes toward obesity than the dieting intervention. Dieting (with successful weight loss), however, did not result in greater negativity toward obesity. Non-dieting programs seem to be useful in obese women for improving self-esteem, body image, and internalized negative attitudes about obesity.