Living Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Feeding and Eating Disorders

pp 1-3

Date: Latest Version

Spiral Model of Dieting and Disordered Eating

  • Janet PolivyAffiliated withUniversity of Toronto Mississauga Email author 
  • , Todd HeathertonAffiliated withUniversity of Toronto Mississauga


Heatherton and Polivy (1992) initially presented the spiral model of chronic dieting and eating disorders as an explanation of the course followed by those who engage in chronic weight-loss dieting, some of whom seem to go on to develop eating disorders. The spiral model states that individuals who compare themselves to an ideal physique and feel like they do not match this ideal seem to develop body dissatisfaction, which contributes to a decision to diet to lose weight (and achieve the ideal physique). If the diet succeeds and the person loses the desired amount of weight, that is the end of the process. Unfortunately, most diets do not produce the desired weight loss, especially for those who begin with low self-esteem. Those with low self-esteem who make these comparisons of themselves with ideal others are more vulnerable to societal and peer pressures to be thinner, and are more likely to develop body dissatisfaction and begin to diet, and are more susceptible to disrup ...

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