Date of Award

12-20-2018

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Jarry, Josee

Keywords

body dissatisfaction, body image, body surveillance, fat stereotypes, social comparison, weight stigma

Rights

CC-BY-NC-ND

Abstract

Fat stereotypes refer to beliefs about traits that are considered characteristic of individuals carrying excess weight. Endorsing these beliefs is associated with negative body image in overweight and obese individuals. In normal weight women, however, these beliefs have a more nuanced effect on body image. The purpose of these studies was to extend existing literature on the relationship between fat stereotype endorsement and body dissatisfaction in normal weight women. A mediated moderation model was proposed. Specifically, body surveillance was investigated as a moderator of the relationship between fat stereotype endorsement and body dissatisfaction. Further, downward physical appearance comparison was examined as a potential mediator of this moderated effect. This model was examined in both a Caucasian-only sample, as well as a full, ethnically heterogeneous sample. As hypothesized, body surveillance significantly moderated the relationship between fat stereotype endorsement and body dissatisfaction in the Caucasian sample in Study 1. Greater endorsement of fat stereotypes predicted greater body dissatisfaction in women with lower body surveillance. In women with higher body surveillance, fat stereotypes were unrelated to body dissatisfaction. These results suggest that for women who do not regularly monitor their appearance, endorsing fat stereotypes is harmful to their body image. However, body dissatisfaction is more resistant to varying levels of fat stereotype endorsement in women who regularly monitor their body. In Study 2, an experimental design was used to manipulate fat stereotype endorsement. To increase fat stereotypes in the support condition, information about the controllable causes of excess weight (e.g., diet, exercise, etc.) was presented. To decrease fat stereotypes in the challenge condition, information about the uncontrollable causes of excess weight (e.g., genetics, food-rich environment, etc.) was presented. As hypothesized, body surveillance moderated the impact of study condition (support vs. challenge) on body dissatisfaction in Caucasian women. However, women with lower body surveillance reported lower body dissatisfaction in the support condition compared to those in the challenge condition. In contrast, women with higher body surveillance did not differ in their reports of body dissatisfaction depending on study condition. Similarly to Study 1, these results indicate that for women with greater body surveillance, their body appraisals are resistant to change based on weight control information and fat stereotype endorsement. For normal weight women who are less conscious of their body, it is possible that information about the controllable causes of excess weight improves their body satisfaction by eliciting an internal locus of control, and affirming that they are engaging in appropriate weight management behaviours. Notably, these significant findings were observed in Caucasian women only in both studies. The interactions were not significant in the full, ethnically heterogeneous sample. This pattern was expected, and confirms that the relationships between body image and weight stigma are impacted by race and ethnicity. Finally, the interaction did not significantly predict downward physical appearance comparison in either study. Thus, downward physical appearance comparison was not the mechanism through which the observed interactions between fat stereotypes and body surveillance impacted body dissatisfaction, and the mediated moderation model was not supported.

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