Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Parham, Ellen S.

Degree Name

M.S. (Master of Science)

Legacy Department

Department of Economics


Obesity; Body image


A small percentage of the obese dieting public can lose weight to a goal and maintain the loss. The study presented here was designed to determine whether the personality variable, body image, has effect in aiding long terra success of weight loss maintenance. Body image is anchored to self concept. Body image and self concept are essential to the development of the healthy personality. These psychological constructs are related to self esteem, security and identification with the sexual role. American women labor under anxiety provoking cultural pressures to be slender, young and beautiful. Obese women who possess the ego-ideal that identifies with the cultural ideal suffer from anxiety, insecurity and disturbed body image. The symptoms suffered could be intense enough to motivate continued denial of oral gratification with use of food in order that weight loss be maintained. The thesis hypothesis holds that women with extreme feelings about their body image would be successful in maintaining weight loss and that women with moderate or neutral feelings about their body image would regain lost weight. The subjects tested for difference of body image attitudes were Caucasian female adult members of Chicago area chapters of T.O.P.S, Sixty subjects had lost weight to a goal: thirty subjects (Maintainers) had maintained the weight loss for six months or longer, and thirty subjects (Regainers) had regained some or all of the weight before the six month period ended. The instrument used was the self-administered Secord-Jourard Body Cathexis-Self Cathexis questionnaire. Cathexis may be defined as the amount of acceptance or rejection of body and self felt by the subjects tested. The questionnaire contained forty items relating to body and forty items relating to self. A five point intensity scale ranging from extreme dissatisfaction to extreme satisfaction was used to determine intensity of subjective feelings about body and self. Analysis of data disclosed no significant difference in body image attitudes between groups, Fifty per cent of both groups cathected positively, showing satisfaction with body image. Thirty per cent of both groups cathected negatively, showing dissatisfaction. The psychological variable, body image, as measured by the Secord-Jourard questionnaire did not distinguish Maintainers from Regainers. The thesis hypothesis was rejected at the .01 and .05 levels of significance. One interesting statistical finding of possible future value is the identification of twenty-six items of significant difference (at the .01 and .05 levels) as disclosed by Chi-square analysis. The twenty-six items could be used as a core constellation of psychological characteristics around which to develop a new instrument for distinguishing Maintainers from other obese sub-groups. This thesis was approached as an interdisciplinary function of nutrition and psychology. Both areas are interrelated and interdependent in the study of the obesity syndrome. Factors underlying successful weight loss maintenance must be identified and analyzed. Personality variables should be sought that can be used to establish predictive, measurable parameters of identification of potential weight loss maintainers. The problem is to seek out that undefined quality or qualities that cause a small portion of the obese dieting public to achieve weight loss and to maintain it. Whether or not body image difference is an important contributing factor must be determined through further study.


Includes bibliographical references.


72 pages




Northern Illinois University

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