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July 10, 2017

Dieting and Restricting: Ineffective Tools for BED Treatment

Woman with Binge Eating Disorder

Contributor: Camille Williams, MA, LCPC, Eating Disorder Specialist at Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center

It is not uncommon for people to yo-yo diet, which results in many ups and downs with food and weight.

Dieting is not a sustainable behavior. An individual will typically cut out foods, restrict, or develop a rigid relationship with food according to the diet for a short period of time.

Eventually, there is a return back to foods that were restricted or denied, typically through overeating with an imbalance in food groups and portion sizes.

Why Doesn’t Dieting Work?

This type of experience with food in extremes of restricting and then bingeing is unhealthy for the body’s functioning and can be accompanied by fluctuations in weight. A healthy relationship with all foods focuses on balance and moderation and can provide consistency and sustainability in patterns with food, bodily processes, and weight.

Woman on lake shoreThe shame associated with bingeing behaviors often results in feeling unworthy and guilty around eating.

Society also shames individuals who are overweight and encourages weight loss through restriction of food.

This sets up a culture and society that turns to dieting and restricting as the “perfect” solution for binge eating disorder. And many individuals with binge eating disorder turn to extreme diets or complete restriction to “fix” their “bad” relationship with food and lose weight.

Mindfulness in Binge Eating Disorder Treatment

Research has demonstrated that an effective approach to treating binge eating disorder is mindfulness techniques [1].

Mindfulness encourages awareness, a non-judgmental stance, and acceptance. These components allow for a healthy and healing relationship with food and the body. Food is viewed as neutral, rather than “good” or “bad,” which means less restricting and bingeing behaviors. Seeing food as fuel allows the body to get the nutrients needed in a balanced and moderate way.

The balance between restricting and bingeing means being open to all foods in proper portions and with balanced meals that include all food groups. This approach can break the cycle of bingeing and restricting promoted by intense shame with food and body.

Sustainability and consistency are possible when utilizing a meal plan that includes all foods. This approach allows the body to find its natural set point and stabilize, rather than varying weights. Stability is created physically and emotionally through mindfulness techniques. Additionally, dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) promotes an increased awareness of feelings, physical and emotional.

Woman smilingWith dieting and restricting, an individual has to limit intake and ignore the body’s needs in order to meet the strict diet requirements. Similarly, bingeing is not paying attention to the body’s needs by going beyond and overwhelming the body with food to process.

Mindfulness can provide an opportunity to listen to the body’s needs physically. When the body is provided the nutrients it needs, it allows an individual with binge eating disorder to address the emotional issues underlying the destructive eating patterns.


Rita Ekelman photoAbout the author: Camille Williams, MA, LCPC is an Eating Disorder Specialist at Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center. Her primary responsibilities consist of facilitating group therapy, creating individualized support plans, and education and awareness for resident’s continued success in recovery.

She received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology and Sociology from Augustana College. She was awarded a Master’s Degree in Clinical Professional Counseling from Roosevelt University.


[1] Godfrey, K.M., Gallo, L.C., & Afari, N. (2015). Mindfulness-based interventions for binge eating: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 38, 348-362. doi: 10.1007/s10865-014-9610-5.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals. We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published July 10, 2017.
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on July 10, 2017.
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