Examining an acute environmental trigger for dysfunctional eating: Measuring the immediate impact of fat disparagement media exposure and its effects on body dissatisfaction, negative affect, weight control practice intentions, and sub-clinical binge eating behavior in college women
Degree Granting Department
J. Kevin Thompson, Ph.D.
Eating disorders, Obesity, Television, Movies, Stigmatization
Binge eating is a maladaptive eating practice associated with unhealthy weight control methods (vomiting, laxative abuse) and the development of weight gain and obesity. Isolating psychological and environmental variables that trigger binge eating can prevent or potentially moderate eating disturbance. Previous research implicates media exposure as an environmental contributor to psychological and eating disturbance. The current study sought to uncover whether fat stigmatization media exposure is an acute environmental trigger for psychological disturbance and binge initiation by dismantling fat media messages and experimentally manipulating messages. Undergraduate women (N=197) were assigned to one of four media message conditions: a fat negative interaction, fat comedy, control stigmatization, or control comedy condition. Psychological functioning and weight control variables were assessed at baseline, pre-test, and post-test.
Results indicated that fat message exposure resulted in significantly greater post-test perceived pressure to lose weight, negative affect, guilt, and anger than control conditions. Participants exposed to fat messages were significantly more likely to restrict food intake. Two subjects engaged in an analogue binge. Weight control intentions were similar across conditions at post-test. BMI was found to moderate the relationship between fat message exposure and negative affect and hostility, with overweight and obese women more vulnerable to negative psychological consequences of fat media exposure. A history of weight related teasing moderated the relationship between fat message exposure and negative mood dependent variables (negative affect, guilt, sadness, fear), with those who had a history of teasing more vulnerable to negative mood induction. The primary significant mediator between fat message exposure and body dissatisfaction was appearance activation.
Eating disorder theories were upheld, with suggested minor modifications specific to the context of fat media exposure. Findings are discussed in the context of weight loss and eating disorders treatment. Limitations of the study and directions for future research are discussed.
Scholar Commons Citation
Himes, Susan, "Examining an acute environmental trigger for dysfunctional eating: Measuring the immediate impact of fat disparagement media exposure and its effects on body dissatisfaction, negative affect, weight control practice intentions, and sub-clinical binge eating behavior in college women" (2009). Graduate Theses and Dissertations.