Female rats were assigned to dietary conditions as follows for 3.5 months: 1) Low-fat control (LFC); 2) Moderately high-fat control (HFC); 3) Alternation between restricted access to a low-fat diet and ad lib access to a very high fat diet (RA); 4) Unrestricted access to the same diets as RA (URA). Results indicate that: 1) HFC consumed the same energy as LFC, but showed a tendency to become heavier and fatter through greater food efficiency. 2) URA and LFC did not differ in body weight, food intake, body composition or energy efficiency. 3) Intake of the very high fat diet declined over time in the RA. 4) RA ate less total calories, weight gained due to FFM gained. Results provide no evidence that dieting and bingeing promote obesity or increased preference for dietary fat, and suggest that dietary restriction has greater impact on energy balance and body composition than does alternation of diet composition. © 1991.