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The Links Between Eating, Guilt And Shame

Recent revelations about the existence of internet sites which shame teenage girls into starving themselves to the point of anorexia come as no surprise to Waikato University researcher Joanna McClintock.

The doctoral student is to present her findings on the links between disordered eating, guilt and shame to the New Zealand Psychological Society Conference in Auckland today.

With slogans like “guilt-free food” and “eat guilt-free” regularly appearing in advertisements, it’s clear that our emotions about eating and body image are fair game for advertisers. But the role those emotions play in our behaviour is not actually well understood.

Joanna and fellow student Kirsty Williams have, with supervision from Professor Ian Evans, developed a measure that will allow the role of guilt and shame in the development of eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia to be better understood.

The measure presents common body image, eating and dieting situations which might arouse feelings of guilt or shame, and attempts to measure facets of these emotions and the levels at which they are experienced. The study results suggest that the measure is targeting the appropriate emotions, and may be helpful as treatments of eating disorders advance.

Joanna will present the results of her study at the Conference of the New Zealand Psychological Society in Auckland on 29 August. The conference is being held at Auckland University in the Maths and Physics Building and University Marae.

Ends

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