An Investigation in the Relationships between Personal Characteristics, Eating Behaviours and Body Dissatisfaction
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1. Abstract A healthy diet is important to physical and mental wellbeing. Research suggests that there are three dimensions of eating behaviour- emotional, restraint and external eating. As well as different eating behaviours, different people exhibit different body dissatisfaction levels, with women displaying the most body dissatisfaction. The present study aims to examine the effects of four predictors- mood (positive and negative affect), self-esteem and coping style, on eating behaviour and body dissatisfaction. Self-administered questionnaires, consisting of the PANAS, RSES, The Cope, The DEBQ and the BSQ, were completed by 196 male and female participants of varying ages. There were strong gender differences for self-esteem, perceived social support, eating-related outcomes and especially body dissatisfaction. The most important findings concerned emotional eating. For males, there were positive correlations between emotional eating and avoidance coping (r= .440, p<0.01), emotion-focused coping (r= .244, p<0.05), social support (r= .248, p<0.05) and body dissatisfaction (r= .386, p<0.01). For females, positive correlations were found between emotional eating and negative affect (r= .355, p<0.01), self-esteem (r= .230, p<0.05), avoidance coping (r= .499, p<0.01) and body dissatisfaction (r= .504, p<0.01). The relationships between self-esteem in men, and negative affect in women and subsequent emotional eating were mediated by avoidance coping. The implications of the present study for policy makers, include ensuring that a greater variety of body shapes are found in the media, encouraging females to engage in activities which may boost their self-esteem and finally to encourage people to have a desire to eat healthily and understand the factors which may contribute to their unhealthy eating practices.