Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Science




Bodell, Lindsay P.


The current study investigated a novel theoretical model of longitudinal relations between weight bias internalization (WBI), weight suppression, and disordered eating. Undergraduate students (N = 787) completed surveys at three time points. Path analysis was used to test competing models representing the temporal order of effects between WBI and weight suppression on disordered eating symptoms. Neither pathway was supported by the data, indicating that WBI and weight suppression were not related over time. However, results supported distinct effects of WBI versus weight suppression on the prediction of overall disordered eating, binge eating, and body dissatisfaction over six-month follow up. Taken together, these findings suggest that reducing WBI and identifying individuals who are weight suppressed may be important eating disorder prevention targets for undergraduate students across gender and weight status.

Summary for Lay Audience

Young adults are at high risk for the development of problematic eating behaviors which can have negative effects on physical and mental health. They also highly endorse negatively biased stereotypes and attitudes associated with being a higher weight, which are related to many negative effects including applying these negative attitudes to oneself, a process known as weight bias internalization. Weight bias internalization may motivate efforts to maintain a lower weight, which may lead to increasingly extreme eating and weight-control behaviors over time. The current study aimed to integrate distinct lines of research on the effects of weight bias internalization and weight loss maintenance, by examining whether these variables are related to each other and to problematic eating behaviors over time in young adults across weight status. Undergraduate students completed three surveys over a six-month period, which included questionnaires regarding their current and previous weight in adulthood, internalization of weight-biased attitudes, and eating behaviors. Results indicated that, contrary to hypotheses, weight bias internalization and maintaining a lower weight were not related to each other. However, they each independently contributed to greater problematic eating behaviors over the follow-up period. In addition, weight bias internalization led to greater loss of control over eating and body dissatisfaction. Notably, weight loss maintenance also led to greater body dissatisfaction over time, suggesting that efforts to maintain a lower weight may have negative rather than positive effects on body-related attitudes. These findings have important implications for efforts to reduce weight bias internalization and prevent harmful eating behaviors in young adult populations of diverse weight ranges.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.