WEIGHT-LOSS SUPPORT, EATING DISORDERED ATTITUDES AND UNHEALTHY DIETING
Weight-loss support and eating disordered attitudes. Low levels of general social support have been linked to the development of eating disorders. Furthermore, Black and Threlfall note that dieting individuals with a slimmer partner lost more weight than those with overweight partners. Lack of weight-loss support specifically may be a particularly poignant marker to dieting women that they are not being supported, resulting in an increase in eating disordered attitudes including higher body dissatisfaction and a greater pursuit of thinness. However, it is likely that the relationship between weight-loss support and eating disordered attitudes is bi-directional. Male partners of women who demonstrate dysfunctional attitudes towards their body and eating may be unwilling to support these hazardous attitudes, and as such withdraw support from dieting behaviours. For the current research it was predicted that women who reported less frequent and helpful weightloss support would have higher levels of eating disordered attitudes. Weight-loss support and unhealthy dieting. Unhealthy dieting techniques such as use of diet pills and fasting are more drastic strategies than the normative healthy dieting behaviours of eating less fatty foods and increasing exercise. It appears that women with an increased drive for thinness and body dissatisfaction may turn to unhealthy dieting techniques when healthy dieting techniques fail.
Thus, the question arises of whether women will also turn to unhealthy dieting techniques when they are or feel unsupported by their partner in their weight-loss efforts? In terms of weight-loss support perceptions, this would mean that if women with low self-esteem feel unsupported by their partners, they are likely to attribute this to their own failings, which will motivate them to indulge in unhealthy dieting practices. In contrast, for those with high self-esteem, low levels of partner support are less likely to result in unhealthy dieting behaviour. These predictions translate into self-esteem playing moderating role. Thus, for the current study it was expected that women with lower self-esteem would report higher levels of unhealthy dieting when their partner reported less helping behaviour, or the women felt their partner was not providing frequent or helpful weight-loss support. However, for women with high self-esteem it was expected that receiving or perceiving less frequent and helpful weight-loss support would not be related to doing more unhealthy dieting.
Thus far we have seen that weight-loss efforts are an important issue in today’s society and that social support has a role to play in health issues, including weight-loss. However, weight-loss specific support for women has not been well investigated, particularly in terms of naturalistic diets. The current research investigated this area in 44 cohabiting couples in which the female was dieting in order to lose weight. The current research aimed to provide a fuller picture of the context in which women’s diets occur by examining the roles of depression, self-esteem, attachment style, and relationship satisfaction. Second, while the intrapersonal and interpersonal context of general social support in intimate relationships has been relatively well investigated, there is a paucity of research dealing with the specific support by romantic partners in women’s everyday dieting attempts. Finally, this study included a longitudinal design, which enabled the long-term impact of the diet, support, and its context on weight-loss outcome to be assessed. At each call the progression of their weight-loss efforts was assessed by measuring their current weight and body satisfaction.
Although the impact of spousal support has been considered in terms of weight-loss treatment programs, this novel research into the impact of partner support on naturalistic dieting efforts represents a further strength of this study. Specific predictions have been outlined throughout the introduction and are summarized here:
1. Women who reported lower self-esteem, higher levels of depression, and higher levels of attachment anxiety would report greater levels of unhealthy dieting but not healthy dieting.
2. Women who reported being less satisfied with their relationship would report greater levels of unhealthy dieting but not healthy dieting.
3. a) Women who reported higher levels of eating disordered attitudes and beliefs would report greater levels of unhealthy dieting but not healthy dieting.
3. b) The positive link between higher eating disordered attitudes and beliefs and higher levels of unhealthy dieting would be stronger for women with low self-esteem than high self-esteem.
4. The link between lower self or relationship functioning and higher levels of unhealthy dieting would be mediated by higher levels of eating disordered attitudes and beliefs. Weight-loss Support Frequency and Helpfulness
5. Women who had higher self-esteem, lower levels of depression, and a more secure attachment style would report receiving more frequent and helpful weight-loss support from their partner.
6. Women reported more frequent and helpful weight-loss support from their partner would report being in a more satisfying relationship and have partners who reported being in a more satisfying relationship.
7. Women who reported greater levels of healthy dieting would report more frequent and helpful weight-loss support from their partner.
8. More frequent and helpful weight-loss support would be related to higher levels of weight-loss over time.
9. Women who reported more eating disordered attitudes and beliefs would report less frequent and helpful weight-loss support from their partner.
10.More frequent and helpful weight-loss support would be related to lower levels of unhealthy dieting in women with low self-esteem but not in women with high self-esteem.