Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Parham, Ellen S.

Degree Name

M.S. (Master of Science)

Legacy Department

Department of Family, Consumer, and Nutrition Sciences


Discrimination against overweight persons; Obesity--Psychological aspects; Overweight persons--Psychological aspects; Body image


Purpose: To determine among dietetic students the extent, if any, of negative attitudes toward obese individuals and whether these attitudes differ based on self-perceptions of weight. Students? weight concerns were also examined. Design: Directors of dietetic programs nationwide were selected at random from the American Dietetic Association Directory of Dietetic Programs and asked if they would be willing to administer a questionnaire to students in a class that they teach. The measuring instrument used was the Fat Phobia Scale (FPS), consisting of 50 items and six subscales. Students were to report their weight and height and select how they perceived their weight. Twenty-two schools agreed to participate resulting in a usable sample size of 474 male and female subjects. Results: ANOVA was used to compare the mean total and subscale scores among perceived weight categories. Differences in total FPS and subscale scores between accurate and inaccurate perceptions of weight were compared by a t test. No significant differences in means were found between subjects? total and subscale scores based on self-perceptions of weight. Both positive and negative stereotypes toward obese people were found. Body Mass Index (BMI) was used to classify each subject as underweight, healthy, or overweight. A high number of females (75%) accurately perceived their weight as being healthy yet, 63% wanted to lose weight, indicating they are accepting cultural ideals for thinness. In contrast, 80% of males perceived themselves as having healthy weight when in fact only 52% were classified as healthy by BMI. In addition, 14.5% and 8.7% of female and male subjects reported being on a diet. A disturbing number of dietetic students (24.5% females and 15.2% males) considered themselves as having an eating disorder. Applications: Nutrition educators should realize that negative attitudes toward obese people do exist among dietetic students and that these attitudes could interfere with counseling interventions. Furthermore, education is needed in dietetic programs to promote healthy eating and positive body images as well as to educate students on the health risks and consequences of eating disorders, the dangers of dieting, and the influence of the media on body image.


Includes bibliographical references.


v, 67 pages




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