Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Wendy M. Rote, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Lindsey Rodriguez, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Diana Rancourt, Ph.D.


body satisfaction, disordered eating, weight bias, sociocultural pressures


Young adult women are more likely to be dissatisfied with their bodies (Wansink et al., 2017) and engage in disordered eating patterns when they have a history of receiving parental comments about their bodies during childhood (Fortesa & Ajete, 2014). Furthermore, high bodily shame mediates the relationship between receiving critical messages about eating from parents during childhood and disordered eating behaviors for young adult women (Oliveira et al., 2019). Altogether, this suggests that bodily shame is a distinct pathway linking parental influence during adolescence to eating disturbances. However, little research has examined the unique roles that bodily shame, internalized weight bias, and body satisfaction play in young women’s eating behaviors. Therefore, the current study sought to clarify the mechanism (e.g., increased bodily shame) through which recalling hurtful maternal comments about one's weight affects portion sizes for young adult women. The impact of body mass index (BMI) was also explored.

Participants were 328 female college students (Mage = 19.45, SD = 1.57) with relatively diverse body sizes (MBMI = 25.10, SD = 5.45) from a southern U.S. university. After reporting levels of mood, hunger level, perceived body shape, and internalizing symptoms, participants were randomly assigned to one of two conditions. The shame condition had participants recall a memory from their adolescence in which their mother body shamed them for being too big while the neutral condition had participants recall a memory where their mother talked to them about something boring. Participants then reported their current levels of internal bodily shame, external bodily shame, internalized weight bias, and body satisfaction. Portion size was measured by presenting images of systematically different portion sizes for various foods (i.e., pasta, curry, chips, cake, and oatmeal) and having participants indicate the portion they would choose to eat. In addition, participants reported how much they enjoy each food as well as their history of receiving maternal body influence and their tendency to engage in disordered eating behaviors.

A parallel mediation model showed no relationship between recalling maternal body- shaming comments and any variables of interest. However, both internal bodily shame and internalized weight bias were associated with smaller portion size choice. Moderated mediation models demonstrated that BMI moderated these associations. In particular, higher internalized weight bias only significantly predicted choosing smaller portions for those with BMIs of approximately 27.9 and lower. More notably, higher internal bodily shame was significantly linked to choosing smaller portions for those with BMIs of approximately 24.0 and lower while it was linked to choosing larger portions for those with BMIs of approximately 34.8 and higher. This dual effect of internal bodily shame on portion size choice suggests that associations between bodily shame and eating behavior is more complex than previously identified. More specifically, bodily shame appears to have different effects on eating behaviors depending on a young woman’s body size. Future research should better disentangle these distinct pathways and how they are linked to disordered eating behaviors such as dietary restraint.

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