Journal of Community Nursing - page 93

2013,Vol 27, No 4
odern society places
a lot of pressure on
individuals to be thin
and to fight obesity (Bailey and
Ricciardelli, 2010; Flegal et al, 2010).
However, with this pressure comes
the potential for increased body
dissatisfaction (Veldhuis et al, 2012),
which can result in individuals
becoming preoccupied with their
weight and shape.
The prevalence of obesity has
become a national health concern in
the US, prompting greater promotion
of the need to maintain a healthy
weight (Flegal et al, 2010; Tubbs, 2000).
While necessary for public health,
in some individuals these messages
may run the risk of contributing to
an obsession with attaining a specific
weight (Neumark-Sztainer, 2005;
O’Dea, 2005). Similarly, the influence
of social media may contribute to
an expectation of‘thinness’and may
Assessing eating disorder and weight
preoccupation risk in female students
affect young adults’body satisfaction,
again triggering a preoccupation with
weight and shape (van den Berg et al,
Weight preoccupation is defined
as spending too much time thinking
about one’s weight — shape
preoccupation on the other hand is
defined as spending too much time
thinking about one’s body shape
(Tubbs, 2000).
The prevalence of weight and
shape preoccupation is a concern,
particularly as excessive weight
preoccupation can negatively impact
nutritional status (Yanover and
Thompson, 2008), and often precedes
the development of an eating
disorder (Killen et al, 1994). For
example, adolescents who frequently
weigh themselves may also
demonstrate unhealthy eating habits,
such as food restriction and missing
meals, which affect their nutrient
intake (Friend et al, 2012). Similarly,
body size perception is related to
dieting frequency, with women who
perceive their figure as ‘larger’dieting
more often (Ackard et al, 2002).
A higher body mass index (BMI) is
positively associated with weight and
shape preoccupation and dieting or
exercising to lose weight (Colabianchi
et al, 2006). In addition, individuals
who perceive themselves as being
overweight are more likely to be
negatively preoccupied with their
body image (Park and Beaudet, 2007).
The relationship between
BMI and the risk of developing
an eating disorder is mediated by
body dissatisfaction (when body
dissatisfaction is involved, the
association between BMI and the
risk of developing an eating disorder
becomes stronger). In addition, of all
the indicators of body dissatisfaction,
weight and shape perceptions were
the most influential mediators (Lynch
et al, 2008).
An individual’s personality
traits, such as perfectionism, and
any personality disorders, such as
narcissism, may also be associated
with weight preoccupation (Davis et al,
1997), and higher levels of stress have
been associated with a dysfunctional
body image, lower self-esteem, and
greater depressive symptoms (Murray
et al, 2011), which may increase the risk
of weight preoccupation.
Some young women’s ability to
cope with life events can be related to
weight, as demonstrated by Denisoff
and Endler (2000), who identified that
the perceived stress (whether it be
from work or family circumstances)
was associated with an increase in
some women’s preoccupation with
their weight. Denisoff and Endler
(2000) concluded that the fewer
coping skills a women has increases
the likelihood that she will be
preoccupied with her weight (Densioff
and Endler, 2000). Also, individuals
who perceive themselves to be
physically attractive are more likely to
Samantha A Ramsay, Assistant Professor of Foods
and Nutrition and Director of the Coordinated
Programme; Laurel J Branen, Professor of
Emeritus; Miranda L Snook, Research
Assistant, School of Family and Consumer
Sciences; all at University of Idaho, Moscow, USA
Obsession with weight has been identified as a significant problem
in modern society, particularly among young women. Similarly, the
phenomena of weight and shape preoccupation have been recognised
as preliminary behaviours to the development of eating disorders.
This study aimed to identify the current incidence of, and factors
associated with, weight preoccupation, shape preoccupation, and
eating disorder risk in female US university students aged 18 to 23
years. An online study was used and the findings demonstrated that
31% of respondents identified themselves as weight-preoccupied
and 33% as shape-preoccupied. Overall, the study found that asking
students whether they are weight-preoccupied could be an initial step
in early intervention for those at risk of developing an eating disorder.
Weight preoccupation
Eating disorders
Samantha Ramsay, Laurel J Branen, Miranda L Snook
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