"Imperfect girl talk": Exploring the relationships between socio-cultural norms, disordered eating & obesity
LE3 .A278 2010
Bachelor of Science
Nutrition & Dietetics
The “ ideal” female body size has become progressively smaller over the past half century while the actual female body size has progressively increased. Rates of disordered eating, or aberrant attitudes and behaviours surrounding food and weight, are also on the rise. Thus, the purpose of this qualitative descriptive study was to examine socio- cultural factors from the female perspective that can help explain the thin ideal and obesity epidemic paradox. Following ethics approval, female university students were recruited to participate in 30 minute semi- structured interviews. Using a grounded theory approach, interviews were designed to examine women‟ s perceptions of cultural norms regarding social pressures, motivations to eat, and weight control practices. To support findings, participants filled out a brief questionnaire on basic demographic characteristics, personal attributes, and related sources of pressure. Interviews were recorded, transcribed verbatim, and subsequently underwent iterative coding and line by line analysis to identify emergent themes. Twenty women participated in the study with a mean age of 21.7 ± 2.8 years and a mean BMI of 24.1 ± 4.8 kg/ m2. The main theme identified was gender differences in socio- cultural norms. There were five other underlying themes: “ perfect” expectations, searching for balance, fear of judgement, food as a guilty pleasure, and dieting as ignorant and futile. The main sources of pressure regarding body size, shape, or both were determined to be women themselves and the general media. This study provides insight into some of the mechanisms that may help explain the cultural weight paradox such as fear of obesity, conventional dieting, dichotomous thinking, and stress- induced overeating. These findings provide support that obesity and disordered eating interventions would benefit from integrated and gender- specific approaches to their prevention and treatment.
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