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The development of a scale to measure diet-culture beliefs




Davidson, Kenzie, author
Rickard, Kathryn, advisor
Henry, Kimberly L., committee member
Faw, Meara, committee member

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In the United States, it is widely assumed that dieting is a healthy practice and a thin body represents physical health (Bacon, 2010). Many people believe that a person's body size is a direct result of their behaviors related to food and exercise, dismissing the impact of other factors that influence body size (e.g. genetics) (Chrisler & Barney, 2017). It is common for people to view food as "good" or "bad" based on how the food is thought to impact a person's body. "Bad" foods cause weight gain, while "good" foods result in weight loss or maintenance (Vartanian, Herman, & Polivy, 2007). Research demonstrates that women tend to experience negative moral emotions such as guilt and shame after eating foods society characterizes as "bad" or after eating more than they view as acceptable (Sheikh, Botindari, & White, 2013). Along with health and morality, dieting and thinness holds significance in the area of social status. Thinness persists as the ideal body type in the U.S. and dieting offers a path to achieve that socially prized body type. Dieting and health, moralization of food and bodies, and dieting and status are three aspects of diet-culture. This study sought to examine how women experience diet-culture and create a tool to measure women's diet-culture beliefs. I consulted previous literature and conducted focus groups investigating women's experiences with diet-culture. The focus groups revealed important themes related to diet-culture that were subsequently used to generate items for the Diet-Culture Beliefs Scale (DCBS). DCBS items were administered to a sample of psychology students (n = 517) who identified as women. I conducted an exploratory factor analysis (EFA) and a parallel analysis, which both pointed to a three-factor structure for the DCBS. I then conducted a confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) specifying three factors and selected items based on psychometric quality. After modifications, analyses suggested a good model fit for the nine-item, three-factor scale. This scale is a useful first step in empirically measuring diet-culture, though additional research must be conducted to further validate the DCBS.


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disordered eating
eating disorder


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