Date of Award

2017

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Nutrition and Food Sciences

First Advisor

Geoffrey Greene

Abstract

Background: Weight dissatisfaction is a persons’ desire to change his/her current body weight (1, 2). Gender differences in weight dissatisfaction in young adults have been observed, where females prefer to achieve slender figures and males strive to gain muscle mass and increase lean body mass (3-6). Personality type may influence body dissatisfaction: for example, people higher on the neuroticism personality trait have a higher level of body dissatisfaction than those higher on the conscientiousness personality trait (3, 7). There are also gender differences in behaviors related to body dissatisfaction (5, 8). For example, females dissatisfied with their bodies may demonstrate an excessive need to exercise, while males may engage in an excessive weight lifting (5, 9). While body dissatisfaction differs from weight dissatisfaction, they are highly correlated (8, 10). However, the influencers of weight dissatisfaction have not been fully explored in the literature and it is important to identify how personality traits affect weight dissatisfaction. In addition, research is needed to determine if exercise, fruit and vegetable intake, and affective components of weight perception predict weight dissatisfaction.

Objective: The primary objective of this research was to examine the association between personality traits and weight dissatisfaction. The secondary objectives were to examine the association between weight dissatisfaction and moderate and vigorous exercise as well as weight dissatisfaction and fruit and vegetable intake. The exploratory objective was to examine whether weight dissatisfaction was influenced by an accurate perception of weight status.

Design and Methods: This study was a cross-sectional secondary data analysis using data from the College Environmental Behavioral Perception Survey (CEBPS) to determine if there was an association between weight dissatisfaction, categorized as satisfied and dissatisfied utilizing both operational and affective assessments, and personality, physical activity and fruit and vegetable intake. Undergraduate students at 8 different universities completed the CEBPS survey, n=1,838, which included: weight dissatisfaction, The Five Factor Personality Model to measure personality traits (extraversion, agreeableness, openness to experience, conscientiousness and neutroticism), the International Physical Activity Questionnaire to measure physical activity and the National Cancer Institute Fruit and Vegetable Screener to measure fruit and vegetable intake (7, 11, 12). To measure the associations between weight dissatisfaction and personality traits, a chi square analysis was completed. For weight dissatisfaction, physical activity and fruit and vegetable intake t-tests were completed. All analyses were conducted separately by gender.

Results: Personality traits as well as fruit and vegetable intake did not predict weight dissatisfaction in either gender. There was no association between weight dissatisfaction and physical activity among female college students. Although there was no association between operational weight dissatisfaction and physical activity in males, using the affective definition, weight dissatisfied males exercised less than weight satisfied males.

Conclusion: Weight dissatisfaction was not associated with personality traits, fruit and vegetable intake and physical activity in general. Additional research is needed because the proportion of weight dissatisfied college students was high and intake of fruits and vegetables and physical activity was below recommendations.

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