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Keywords:

  • fear;
  • disgust;
  • emotional response;
  • abnormal eating attitudes

Abstract

Objective

Clinical descriptions of eating disorders emphasize the role of fear (e.g., fear of weight gain, weight phobia, morbid dread of fatness). The present study explored whether disgust, an emotion that is linked intimately with food, may also be an important emotional response to eating and weight-related issues in women with abnormal eating attitudes.

Method

Forty nonclinical female participants were presented with a series of food, drink, body shape, and emotion-related stimuli. They were asked to rate each on a number of responses associated with fear and disgust. In addition, participants completed standard questionnaire measures of eating attitudes, phobias, and disgust sensitivity.

Results

Ratings of fear and disgust were higher in women with abnormal eating attitudes than in those without for high-calorie foods and for overweight body shapes, but not for drinks and slim body shapes. In response to fear and disgust relevant images, women with abnormal eating attitudes also rated emotional responses higher, but this was restricted to the appropriate emotion (i.e., higher levels of fear in response to fear stimuli and higher levels of disgust in response to disgust stimuli).

Conclusion

In women with abnormal eating attitudes, both disgust and fear responses to food and body shape issues are equally salient. Thus, an emphasis on fear in eating disorders, to the exclusion of disgust, may be unwarranted. © 2002 by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Int J Eat Disord 32: 213–218, 2002.