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Social physique anxiety, body-size dissatisfaction, and restrained eating among non-exercising, recreationally exercising, and competitively exercising women Yarker, Kristen Vaughan

Abstract

Objectification theory states that in the socio-cultural context of North America women feel much pressure to have a thin, fit, ideal body. It is hypothesized that exercise, food attitudes, and women's feelings about their bodies are linked. Also, doubts have been raised about whether exercise is associated with positive well-being for women in North America. The primary purpose of this study was to determine whether exercise was associated with food attitudes and women's feelings about their bodies. The secondary purpose was to investigate whether women who exercised competitively differed from women who exercised recreationally in food attitudes and feelings about their bodies. This was investigated as much of the exercise literature is based on samples of competitive athletes, and it is unknown how representative these women are of the majority of women who exercise recreationally. A third purpose was to investigate whether food attitudes were associated with women's feelings about their bodies. The Three Factor Eating Questionnaire (TFEQ) measured food attitudes, namely dietary restraint, disinhibition of dietary restraint, and susceptibility to hunger. Participants' feelings about their bodies were measured by the Social Physique Anxiety Scale (measured social physique anxiety), the Contour Drawing Rating Scale (measured body-size dissatisfaction), and a question regarding individuals' concern with differences between their current and ideal body sizes. The Godin Leisure Time Exercise Questionnaire measured habitual exercise activity. A convenience sample of 52 competitive, 61 recreational, and 53 non-exercising female UBC students, mean age 21.7 ± 3.6 years, completed questionnaires. No difference existed amongst the groups for body-size dissatisfaction. Competitive exercisers had more positive feelings about their bodies than recreational and non-exercisers, and less dietary restraint than recreational exercisers. Recreational exercisers did not have more positive feelings about their bodies than non-exercisers, and reported more dietary restraint. Each exercise group had individual patterns of interrelationships amongst exercise, food attitudes, and feelings about their bodies. Therefore, the results only partially supported objectification theory because while exercise, food attitudes, and women's feelings about their bodies were linked, their relationships were complex and variable depending on a woman's exercise habits.

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