Success and failures of dieting (24 marks)Watch
Theories for the success and failures of dieting include the Boundary Model (Herman and Polivy 1984) and the role of detail (Redden 2008). The Boundary model suggests that restrained eaters (dieters) set a psychological boundary for themselves which is far away from their biological boundary. Whilst sticking to the psychological boundary would result in weight loss, people are highly likely to surpass this boundary and this will result in the inevitable outcome of overeating potentially up to or past our bodies’ biological boundary. The dieter becomes disinhibited and the ‘what the Hell’ effect takes place. The boundary model suggests that a dieter should have their psychological and biological boundary close together, which will reduce the chances of overeating and dieting failure. If this is the case then it will reduce the chances of surpassing ones psychological boundary due to hunger or overeating, and therefore lead to a successful diet for the individual concerned.
The second theory for the explanation of success and failures of dieting is the role of detail by Redden. Redden suggests that diets have a tendency to fail due to the boredom experienced by the dieter as a result of eating the same food on a regular basis. Therefore, individuals should focus on the different aspects that make up the meal itself. For example, a ‘classic diet food’ is salad. Dieters should focus on the individual aspects that make up this meal such as the lettuce or tomatoes which will therefore enable the dieter to perceive variety in their meal. This will result in the long-term benefit of weight loss and therefore a successful diet for the individual concerned.
The Boundary Model provides a valid explanation for the success and failures of dieting due to the research support it has received. Herman and Mack (1975) did a study using female participants who were randomly allocated to one of three conditions. They were either given zero, one or two milkshakes to drink and then later presented with three different flavours of ice cream and told they could eat as much as they want and had to then rate the taste. Participants were then given a questionnaire in order to assess their level of restraint and were categorised into restrained eaters or non-restrained eaters. The findings were that retrained eaters ate significantly more ice cream than non-restrained eaters after they had drunk their milkshake. This provides valid support for the Boundary Model as it demonstrates that once the individual surpassed their psychological boundary, they continued eating all the way up to their biological boundary therefore failing their ‘diet of the day.’ However, the validity of this study can be questioned due to it using a volunteer sample. The questionnaire was only given after the experiment took place therefore we cannot generalise the results from the sample. Also, the ratio of dieters to non-dieters may have been smaller meaning that the numbers weren’t equal for both groups therefore meaning the results may not be able to be generalised.
There is also research support for the role of detail by Redden, therefore increasing the validity of this explanation as a suitable theory for the success and failures of dieting. In his Jelly Bean Experiment (2008), Redden found that participants were happy to continue eating jelly beans if they were described in detail. For example, ‘Cherry Flavour number 7’ as a pose to ‘Bean Number 7.’ This therefore suggests that the role of detail is significant in how people perceive food and is key to a successful diet.
In contrast, it could be argued that the research evidence is flawed. For example, Reddens research relied on individuals stating when they were bored and when they were happy to continue eating jelly beans. Therefore, individuals may have been displaying social desirable behaviours that affected the results thus the role of detail may not be an implicating factor on the success and failures of dieting. If this was the case then the validity of this study could be questioned and would suggest that the role of detail isn’t important for the success and failures of dieting.
In addition, both these theories are criticised for failing to take into account free will thus they are determinist. The Boundary Model claims that once a dieter surpasses their psychological boundary they will automatically continue to eat up to their biological one therefore resulting in dieting failure. The role of detail claims that lack of description of food will result in failing the diet. However, in real life we use our free will to decide whether we want to stick to a diet or not or whether we want to eat the same foods on a regular basis. This therefore, questions the validity of this theory as a suitable explanation for the success and failures of dieting thus also questioning its applicability in the real world.
All in all, both these theories are also reductionist as they reduce a complex idea into simplistic terms. In fact diets may not work due to lack of motivation or biological factors e.g. lack of Ghrelin, or maybe even gender differences. Research has shown that sticking to a diet may not be due to the Boundary Model but instead due to factors such as vanity. Also, cultural differences may also affect whether a diet is successful or not. In western cultures being skinny is seen as very important therefore a dieter may be successful in dieting due to the way that society has taught them to eat and behave. Whereas in collectivist cultures it is seen as better to be ‘fatter’ as it illustrates ones wealth thus diets don’t really exist. Therefore, this conveys that both the Boundary Model and the role of detail may not be applicable in all cultures.
19/24 Grade A AQA A
I think it's more likely that they ask for success and/or failure but I wouldn't risk it by only revising one of them. And anyway, it's less of an issue this year because a dieting question came up last year.