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Open Access Research article

A qualitative study of the determinants of dieting and non-dieting approaches in overweight/obese Australian adults

Stuart Leske1*, Esben Strodl1 and Xiang-Yu Hou2

Author Affiliations

1 School of Psychology and Counselling, Queensland University of Technology, Victoria Park Road, Kelvin Grove, QLD, 4059, Australia

2 School of Public Health and Social Work, Queensland University of Technology, Victoria Park Road, Kelvin Grove, QLD, 4059, Australia

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BMC Public Health 2012, 12:1086  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-1086

Published: 18 December 2012

Abstract

Background

Dieting has historically been the main behavioural treatment paradigm for overweight/obesity, although a non-dieting paradigm has more recently emerged based on the criticisms of the original dieting approach. There is a dearth of research contrasting why these approaches are adopted. To address this, we conducted a qualitative investigation into the determinants of dieting and non-dieting approaches based on the perspectives and experiences of overweight/obese Australian adults.

Methods

Grounded theory was used inductively to generate a model of themes contrasting the determinants of dieting and non-dieting approaches based on the perspectives of 21 overweight/obese adults. Data was collected using semi-structured interviews to elicit in-depth individual experiences and perspectives.

Results

Several categories emerged which distinguished between the adoption of a dieting or non-dieting approach. These categories included the focus of each approach (weight/image or lifestyle/health behaviours); internal or external attributions about dieting failure; attitudes towards established diets, and personal autonomy. Personal autonomy was also influenced by another category; the perceived knowledge and self-efficacy about each approach, with adults more likely to choose an approach they knew more about and were confident in implementing. The time perspective of change (short or long-term) and the perceived identity of the person (fat/dieter or healthy person) also emerged as determinants of dieting or non-dieting approaches respectively.

Conclusions

The model of determinants elicited from this study assists in understanding why dieting and non-dieting approaches are adopted, from the perspectives and experiences of overweight/obese adults. Understanding this decision-making process can assist clinicians and public health researchers to design and tailor dieting and non-dieting interventions to population subgroups that have preferences and characteristics suitable for each approach.

Keywords:
Diet; Dieting; Non-dieting; Qualitative; Grounded theory; Overweight; Obesity; Adults; Weight