Restriction/Chaos Diet Cycle

My favorite lecture to give at Movara is why diets are a bad idea.  We talk about the diet cycle, which most of us have experience with.  Below are my lecture notes, and I hope to see you in class one day!


Restriction/Chaos Diet Cycle

1. Start a diet with strict rules

2. Lack of variety creates boredom and feelings of physical and emotional deprivation

3. Break strict dietary rules and “cheat” on diet

4. Feel guilty for “cheating” and give up altogether

5. Eat all the foods you weren’t allowed on the diet


Key Points:

  • Restriction is not a solution for chaos, it CAUSES it.
  • Feeling full and satisfied from your meals is your solution. Not feeling full and satisfied is what leads to problematic behaviors.
  • Carbohydrates and fats are key nutrients for feeling full and satisfied. High fat carbohydrates are also the foods we typically overeat and binge on when on the chaotic side of the cycle. It is not a coincidence that the same foods we eliminate while on a diet are the same ones we choose when we throw the diet out the window.
  • If you find yourself in this miserable cycle, including a carbohydrate and a fat choice at each meal is strongly encouraged for normalizing eating behaviors (see bullet #1 and #2).
  • Increasing our window of tolerance for what we consider acceptable is essential for avoiding all or nothing behavior. I encourage inclusion of a wide variety of foods from each food group and a balance of them at each meal or snack.
  • This diet cycle is fueled by obsession with weight. When we focus on healthy behaviors rather than changes in weight, it is more likely that we will avoid this rigid/chaotic behavior.
  • I encourage you to replace your diet plan with a self-care plan, which includes regular meals and snacks spaced 3-4 hours apart.


Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD