Gender Difference and Dieting
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MATSUDA, K. (1998). Gender Difference and Dieting. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 1. Available online at http://www.webclearinghouse.net/volume/. Retrieved April 25, 2017 .

Gender Difference and Dieting
KEIKO MATSUDA
SOUTHWEST MISSOURI STATE UNIVERSITY DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHOLOGY

Sponsored by: DAVID STOCKBURGER (dws148f@mail.smsu.edu)
ABSTRACT
I was interested in knowing whether there are double standards regarding appearance and weight applied to the members of the different sex, and whether males and females internalize these different set of standards. I assumed that these differences are reflected by their different views of themselves, others, and the world. The variables are chosen to find out the relationships between gender and their views toward their bodies, their dieting habit, and self concept.

INTRODUCTION

What we believe others think of ourselves greatly affect how we evaluate ourselves. If we believe that others think hiighly of ourselves, we feed good about ourselves. We are aware that people judge others not solely on the basis of who they are inside, but people also use their appearance including the clothes they wear, sizes of different parts of the bodies, color of the skin or hair, height, or weight as a cue to pas judgement on them. In order to be accepted by other members of the society and therefore to maintain our self-esteem, we are very sensitive to what is appropriate or desirable in the society and peer groups we belong to.

In today’s American society, thinness seems to be considered as a synonym to attractiveness. How much we weigh does not have anything to do with our values as a human, however, it seems like the weight becomes a moral issue to judge people’s worth, attractiveness, or likelihood of success. There are different rules affecting different groups of people. It seems that thiness is more closely associated with attractiveness and beauty among women, on the contract to that the masculinity is viewed as desirable characteristics among men.

I was interested in knowing whether there are double standards regarding appearance and weight applied to the members of the different sex, and whether males and females internalize these different set of standards. I assumed that these differences are reflected by their different views of themselves, others, and the world. The variables are chosen to find out the relationships between gender and their views toward their bodies, their dieting habit, and self concept.


METHODS

Subjects. The participants were students from introductory psychology class (PSY 121), who volunteered to participate in the project for students in introductory statistic class (PSY 200). A total of 24 students answered the questionnaire for my project.

Apparatus. Besides questions to collect general information about gender and age of the participants, the questionnaire was composed mainly of two parts. The first part was made up of items to ask the amount of weight they would like to lose or gain, their self-evaluation of body weight, and methods of diet they have tried. The second part was composed of questions to evaluate their general views toward themselves as well as their general thinking processes. The question six, seven, eight, and twelve are from the eating disorder inventory II (Garner, Olmsted, and Polivy, 1984).

Procedure. Participant were asked to fill in several questionnaires for different projects planned by different students. As soon as they finished answering the questionnaires they had been given, they were free to leave. In about thirty minutes, every participant left the classroom. They were asked to write down their names on sign-up sheets for extra credit, but they were not to leave their names on any questionnaires they filled in.

Questionnaire

This questionnaire about eating habit and dieting. This information will be used for PSY 200 statistics project. Please circle the answer that corresponds to your rating.

1. Male Female

2. How old are you? _________ years old.

3. What do you think about your body weight?

Very underweight Underweight Average Overweight Very overweight

4. How many pounds to you want to change (lose or gain)?

Lose ______________lb. OR Gain _________________lb.

5. What type of methods have you tried? Please mark X on the corresponding item.

NEVERRARELYSOMETIMESOFTENALWAYS

Low fat diet_________________________________
Low calorie diet_________________________________
Low carbohydrate diet_________________________________
Diuretics_________________________________
Diet pills_________________________________
Laxatives_________________________________
Vomiting_________________________________

6. I feel inadequate.

NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES OFTEN ALWAYS

7. I feel guilty after overeating.

NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES OFTEN ALWAYS

8. If I gain a pound, I worry that I will keep on gaining.

NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES OFTEN ALWAYS

9. If is very important to be attractive in order to succeed.

NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES OFTEN ALWAYS

10. It is more important that a woman be attractive than a man.

NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES OFTEN ALWAYS

11. My mood swings several times a day.

NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES OFTEN ALWAYS

12. I have trouble expressing my emotions to others.

NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES OFTEN ALWAYS

13. I worry how others view me.

NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES OFTEN ALWAYS


RESULTS

The mean age of the participants was 19.67 (sd = 1.99). Nine out of 24 participants were male (27.5%) and fifteen were female (62.5%). The majority of the participants, 78% of the males and 67% of the females, viewed their body weight as average. The amount of pounds they would like to gain or lose ranged from –50 lb. to + 20 lb. Except for one female participants who expressed the desire to lose –50 lb., one third of the female participants said they would like to lose 10 lb. There was no consistent pattern among male participants except two males showed the desire to gain 20 lb. The mean value of desirable body weight change was +1.86 lb. for the males and –6.92 lb. for the females.

According to the correlation coefficient table, the more they viewed themselves being overweight, they were more likely to feel inadequate (r = .6149) or to feel guilty after overeating (r = .5969). The mean table broken down by gender showed the value of 1.67 for the male and 2.53 for the female, which indicated the likelihood of feeling guilty after overeating was higher among women than among men. The feeling of guilty after overeating was also positively correlated with feeling inadequate (r = .6575) and the anxiety to keep on gaining weight if they would gain one pound (r = .6359). the feeling of guilt was negatively correlated with how much they want to los or gain. The correlation coefficient of -.5859 between these two variables implies that the more they want to lose weight, the more they feel guilty after overeating.

Low fat diet and low calories diet were significantly positively correlated and showing r = .9128. This result implies that those who are conscious about fat intake are also conscious about their calorie intake as well. The result also showed that many of the participants were somewhat concerned about the amount of fat and calories intake, which were indicated by the mean value of 2.74 and 2.48 respectively.

Another noticeable finding from the correlation coefficient table was that the positive correlation found between the importance of being attractive in order to success and importance for women to be attractive (r = .6068). The correlation table also showed that the more they worry about how others view themselves, the more likely they feel inadequate (r = .6121) and the easier their mood changes (r = .5404).

In terms of the methods of diet, the majority of the participants had never engaged in unhealthy dieting methods which may indicate problematic dieters or eating disorders, and there was not significantly gender differences. About 90% of the participants have never engaged in any of the dieting methods such as the usage of diuretics, diet pills, laxatives, or vomiting.

According to the means table for males and females, the questions concerning about the general attitudes and perceptions did not show any significant differences between males and females. The significance level ranged from .0350 to .9610.

Basic Results

Age Mean = 19.67 sd = 1.99

Sex Male N = 9 – 37.5%

Female N = 15 – 62.5%

Self-evaluation of body weight

Very UnderweightUnderweightAverageOverweightVery Overweight

Male 0 (0%)1 (11%)7 (78%)1 (11%)0 (0%)
Female0 (0%)3 (20%)10 (67%)1 (7%)1 (7%)

Desire to gain or lose weight

Male – Mean = +1.86 lb. sd = 14.58

Female – Mean = -6.92 sd = 15.67

 

Never – NE
Rarely – RA
Sometimes – ST
Often – OF
Always – AW

NERASTOFAWMean

30172222132.74Low fat diet

39171317132.48Low calorie diet

78134401.35Low carbohydrate diet

522691301.83Fasting

9100901.27Diuretics

9640001.04Diet pills

9600401.13Laxatives

9600401.13Vomiting

215817402.04I feel inadequate.

382133082.21I feel guilty after overeating.

423817041.88If I gain a pound, I worry that I will keep on gaining.>

17212921132.92It is very important to be attractive in order to be successful.

174423343.04It is more important that a woman be attractive than a man.

292133882.46My mood swings several times a day.

2529331302.33I have trouble expressing my emotions to > others

2117388172.83I worry how others view me.

 

CORRELATION MATRIX

CORRELATION COEFFICIENTS

 

SEX

AGE

BODY

CHANGE

FAT

CALORIE

CARBO

FASTING

DIURETIC

PILLS

SEX

1.0000

         

AGE

-.0882

1.0000

        

BODY

.0000

-.1985

1.0000

       

CHANGE

-.2808

.4976*

-.6717**

1.0000

      

FAT

.0587

-.4162*

.6497**

-.6567**

1.0000

     

CALORIE

-.0108

-.3589

.6277**

-.6435**

.9128**

1.0000

    

CARBO

-.1466

-.0639

.2609

-.0494

.2053

.1628

1.0000

   

FASTING

-.0341

.2000

.3143

-.1169

.3780

.4767*

.2948

1.0000

  

DIURETIC

-.0896

-.0989

.4690*

-.1049

.2772

.3162

.4905*

.6437**

1.0000

 

PILLS

.1557

-.1769

.0000

-.0988

.1892

.2206

-.0978

-.1679

-.0690

1.0000

LAXATIVE

.1557

-.0698

.3233

 

.1892

.2206

-.0978

.4419*

.6901**

-.0455

VOMIT

.1557

-.0698

.3233

 

.1892

.2206

-.0978

.4419*

.6901**

-.0455

INADEQ

.1611

-.0484

.6149**

-.5105*

.2960

.2963

.2027

.3410

.3934

-.0124

GUILT

.3527

-.3472

.5969**

-.5859**

.5041*

.4763*

.5271**

.2808

.4658*

.1327

KEEP

.4321*

-.2640

.5319**

-.5854**

.4697*

.4305*

.0604

-.0636

-.1023

.2431

SUCCESS

-.1885

.0397

-.1028

.2048

-.0265

.0224

-.0290

.1483

.0597

.2080

WOMAN

-.1077

.0454

-.1175

.1430

-.2656

-.1444

-.0178

.0803

.1253

.1817

MOOD

.1494

.3083

.0527

.0720

-.1325

-.0186

-.1142

.1911

.0227

.0968

EMOTION

-.0873

.2311

-.0655

.3469

.0026

.1523

-.1018

.3049

.1964

.1384

VIEW

.2295

-.1085

.4919*

-.2610

.0903

.1746

.1451

.2569

.2646

.1868

RESULTS, CONT.

 

CORRELATION COEFFICIENTS - Continued

 

LAXATIVE

VOMIT

INADEQ

GUILT

KEEP

SUCCESS

WOMAN

MOOD

EMOTION

VIEW

LAXATIVE

1.0000

         

VOMIT

1.0000

1.0000

        

INADEQ

.2717

.2717

1.0000

       

GUILT

.1327

.1327

.6575**

1.0000

      

KEEP

.0280

.0280

.4161*

.6359**

1.0000

     

SUCCESS

-.1464

-.1464

-.1317

-.0721

-.2136

1.0000

    

WOMAN

-.0083

-.0083

.1011

.0571

-.1905

.6068**

1.0000

   

MOOD

.0968

.0968

.1177

-.0370

-.0570

.5671**

.5746**

1.0000

  

EMOTION

.3506

.3506

.2109

-.1658

-.2611

.3254

.3334

.4258**

1.0000

 

VIEW

.0277

.0277

-.6121**

.4226*

.1472

.2950

.3517

.5404**

.2683

1.0000

Note: * p < .05. ** p .01. Two-tailed tests. "." printed if a coefficient cannot be computed.

Means for Males and Females

MEANSIG. LEVEL

MaleFemale
(N = 9)(N = 15)

2.632.80.7903Low fat diet

2.502.47.9610Low calorie diet

1.501.27.5045Low carbohydrate diet

1.881.80.8774Fasting

1.381.21.6916Diuretics

1.001.07.4781Diet pills

1.001.20.4781Laxatives

1.001.20.4781Vomiting

1.892.13.4522I feel inadequate

1.672.53.0909I feel guilty after overeating.

1.332.20.0350If I gain a pound, I worry that I will keep on gaining.

3.222.73.3777It is very important in order to succeed.

2.893.13.6163It is more important that a woman be attractive than a man.

2.222.60.4859My mood swings several times a day.

2.442.27.6851I have trouble expressing my emotions to others.
2.443.07.2806I worry how others view me.

 


DISCUSSION

The results seem to show that there is a gender difference regarding the desirable body change. Males tended to show the desire to gain weight while females showed the desire to lose weight. This result may support my idea that different sets of standards of appropriateness or ideals are operating between males and females. The finding that the more likely they want to lose weight, the more they feel guilty after overeating was understandable because overeating means breaking the rules they have set for themselves. As more women want to lose weight, it was reasonable that more women than men expressed feeling guilty after overeating.

Contrary to my expectation, I did not find any significant differences between males and females about the dieting methods they have used, their self-concept, or general values. The limited findings of the study may be due to the small number of participants or due to the limited quality and number of questions included in the questionnaire. I might have failed to include more relevant questions that could have more accurately reflected the gender specific thinking processes that could explain why males want to gain weight while females want to lose weight in spite that majority of both gender evaluated their body weight as normal. Another possibility might be that the gender difference is not really a factor to decide one’s desire to change the appearance, rather, individual differences in personality and cognition might be a greater factor to decide one’s susceptibility to conform to social norms.

Even though the majority of the participants said that they had never engaged in unhealthy dieting methods, there was one female participant who answered that she would often use diuretics, fasting, laxatives, and vomiting as a method of dieting. As several studies indicate, dieting usually sets the stage for the development of eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. Having one person who revealed the danger of developing such eating disorders out of twenty-four participants may or may not lead to a valid conclusion of saying that the high prevalence of eating disorders on campus due to the absence of the random sampling in this study. It might be interesting to conduct a further and more thorough study about the prevalence of eating disorders on campus and about the possible common characteristics among those individuals.

References

Garner, D.M., Olmstead, M. P., & Polivy, J. (1984). The EDI. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources, Inc.

Submitted 12/15/98 11:11:06 AM
Last Edited 12/15/98 11:28:37 AM
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