Preoccupation with Weight and Eating Patterns of Lebanese and Cypriot Female Students


This comparative cross-cultural study explores the prevalence of preoccupation with weight and eating patterns among female university students in two distinct cultural contexts, Cyprus and Lebanon. Data was collected by means of self-administered questionnaires to 200 students from each culture. To gather the data for this study, the Dutch Eating Behavior Scale was used for the assessment of eating behaviors. Body Mass Index (BMI) and Weight directed behavior were also calculated. The Pearson Product-Moment Correlation Coefficient was used to determine whether there is a linear relationship between students’ BMI and eating behaviors. Findings suggested that with respect to culture and pre-occupation with weight, Cypriot students are more pre-occupied with their weight. However, Lebanese students received higher emotional and external eating scores. In addition, a positive relationship between Body Mass Index, restrained and emotional eating was found in both cultures Also, in both cultures there was a significant positive relationship between restrained and emotional eating, emotional and external eating. These findings suggest that in the Lebanese culture, eating dysfunction among women may be due to responsiveness to external and emotional cues while in the Cypriot culture may be due to an over pre-occupation with weight fuelled by sociocultural agents. Understanding the underlying causes of eating deviations and the existing elements in each culture which promote these deviations could lead to better prevention efforts in two societies where the rise in eating disturbances has been alarming.

Share and Cite:

Katsounari, I. & Zeeni, N. (2012). Preoccupation with Weight and Eating Patterns of Lebanese and Cypriot Female Students. Psychology, 3, 507-512. doi: 10.4236/psych.2012.36073.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Abdollahi, P. & Mann, T. (2001). Eating disorder symptoms and body image concerns in Iran: Comparisons between Iranian women in Iran and in America. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 30, 259-268. doi:10.1002/eat.1083
[2] Affifi-Soweid, R. A., Najem Kteily, M. B., & Shediac-Rizkallah, M. C. (2002). Preoccupation with weight and disordered eating behaviors of entering students at a university in Lebanon. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 32, 52-57. doi:10.1002/eat.10037
[3] Al-Adawi, S., Dorvlo A. S., Al-Ismaily S. S., & Al-Ghafry D. A. (2002). Perception of and attitude towards mental illness in Oman. Journal of Social Psychiatry, 48, 305-317. doi:10.1177/002076402128783334
[4] Anderson-Fye, A. O. (2004). A “Coca-Cola” shape: Cultural change, body image, and eating disorders in San Andres, Belize. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry, 28, 561-595. doi:10.1007/s11013-004-1068-4
[5] Becker, A. E. (2004). Television, disordered eating, and young women in Fiji: Negotiating body image and identify during rapid social chance. Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry, 28, 533-559. doi:10.1007/s11013-004-1067-5
[6] Bojorquez, I. & Unikel, C. (2004). Presence of Disordered eating among Mexican teenage women from a semi-urban area: Its relation to the cultural hypothesis. European Eating Disorders Review, 12, 197-202. doi:10.1002/erv.571
[7] Bruch, H. (1961). Transformation of oral impulses in eating disorders: A conceptual approach. Psychiatric Quarterly, 35, 458-481. doi:10.1007/BF01573614
[8] Burton, P. Smit, H., & Lightowler, H. (2007). The influence of restrained and external eating patterns on overeating. Appetite, 49, 191-197. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2007.01.007
[9] Butler, E. A., Lee, T. L., & Gross, J. J. (2007). Emotion regulation and culture: Are the social consequences of emotion suppression culture-specific. Emotion, 7, 1-48.
[10] Eldredge, K., & Agras, S. (1996). Weight and shape overconcern and emotional eating in binge eating disorder. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 19, 73-82. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1098-108X(199601)19:1<73::AID-EAT9>3.0.CO;2-T
[11] Garrow, J. S., & Webster, J. (1985). Quelelet’s Index (W/H2) as a measure of fatness. International Journal of Obesity, 9, 147-153.
[12] Geliebter, A., & Aversa, A. (2003). Emotional eating in overweight, normal weight, and underweight individuals. Eating Behaviors, 3, 341-347. doi:10.1016/S1471-0153(02)00100-9
[13] Hawks, S., Madanat, H., Merrill, R., Goudy, M., & Miyagawa, T. (2003). A cross cultural analysis of 'motivation for eating as a potential factor in the emergence of global obesity: Japan and the United States. Health Promotion International, 18, 153-162. doi:10.1093/heapro/18.2.153
[14] Heatherton, T. F., Herman, C. P., Polivy, J. A., King, G. A., & McGree, S. T. (1988). The (Mis) measurement of restraint: An analysis of conceptual and issues. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 97, 19-28. doi:10.1037/0021-843X.97.1.19
[15] Herman, C. P., Polivy, J., Pliner, P., Threlkeld, J., & Munic, D. (1978). Distractibilty in dieters and nondieters: An alternative view of “externality”. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36, 536-548. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.36.5.536
[16] Kaplan, H. L. & Kaplan, H. S. (1957). The psychosomatic concept of obesity. Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases, 125, 181-201.
[17] Katsounari, I. (2009). Self-esteem, depression, and eating disordered attitudes: A cross-cultural comparison between Cypriot and British young women. European Eating Disorders Review, 17, 455-461. doi:10.1002/erv.946
[18] Larsen, J. K., van Strien, T., Eisinga, R., & Engels, R. C. (2007). Gender differences in the association between alexithymia and emotional eating in obese individuals. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 60, 237-243. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychores.2005.07.006
[19] Lindeman, M., & Stark, K. (2001). Loss of pleasure, ideological food choice reasons and eating pathology. Appetite, 35, 263-268. doi:10.1006/appe.2000.0357
[20] Levine, M. P., & Smolak, L. (1998). Media as a context for the development of disordered eating. In L. Smolak, M. P. Levine, & R. Striegel-Moore (Eds.), The developmental psychopathology of eating disorders (pp. 235-257). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
[21] Luomala, H., Sirieix, L., & Tahir, R. (2009). Exploring emotional-eating patterns in different cultures: Toward a conceptual framework model. Journal of International Consumer Marketing, 21, 231-245. doi:10.1080/08961530802202818
[22] Macht, M., Roth, S., & Ellgring, H. (2002). Chocolate eating in healthy men during experimentally induced sadness and joy. Appetite, 39, 147-158. doi:10.1006/appe.2002.0499
[23] Macht, M. & Simons, G. (2000). Emotions and eating in everyday life. Appetite, 35, 65-71. doi:10.1006/appe.2000.0325
[24] Nolan, L., Halperin, L., & Geliebter, A. (2010). Emotional Appetite Questionnaire. Construct validity and relationship with BMI. Appetite, 54, 314-319. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2009.12.004
[25] Nasser, M. (1986). Comparative study of the prevalence of abnormal eating attitudes among Arab female students of both London and Cairo Universities. Psychological Medicine, 16, 621-625. doi:10.1017/S0033291700010370
[26] Ogden, J. (1993). The measurement of restraint: Confounding success and failure? International Journal of Eating Disorders, 13, 69-76. doi:10.1002/1098-108X(199301)13:1<69::AID-EAT2260130109>3.0.CO;2-Z
[27] Patel, K. A., & Schlundt, D. G. (2001). Impact of moods and social context on eating behavior. Appetite, 36, 111-118. doi:10.1006/appe.2000.0385
[28] Polivy, J. (1976). Perception of calories and regulation of intake in restrained and unrestrained subjects. Addictive Behaviors, 1, 237-243. doi:10.1016/0306-4603(76)90016-2
[29] Polivy, J. & Herman, C. P. (1976). Clinical depression and weight change: A complex relation. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 85, 338. doi:10.1037/0021-843X.85.3.338
[30] Polivy, J., & Herman, C. P. (2002). Causes of eating disorders. Annual Review of Psychology, 53, 187-213. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.53.100901.135103
[31] Polivy, J., Herman, C. P., & McFarlane, T. (1994). Effects of anxiety on eating: Does palatability moderate distress-induced overeating in dieters? Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 103, 505-510. doi:10.1037/0021-843X.103.3.505
[32] Pothos, E., Tapper, K., & Calitri, R. (2009). Cognitive and behavioral correlates of BMI among male and female undergraduate students. Appetite, 52, 797-800. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2009.03.002
[33] Robbins, T. W., & Fray, P. J. (1980). Stress and dieting: Fact, fiction. Appetite, 1, 103-133. doi:10.1016/S0195-6663(80)80015-8
[34] Rodin, J. (1978). Causes and consequences of consumption in overweight and normal weight people. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 12, 332-344.
[35] Ruggiero, G. M. (2001a). One country, two cultures. In M. Nasser, M. A. Katzman, & R. A. Gordon (Eds.), Eating disorders and cultures in transition (pp. 127-136). New York: Brunner-Routledge.
[36] Silverstein, B., & Perlik, D. (1995). The cost of competence: Why inequality causes depression, eating disorders, and illness in women. New York: Oxford University Press.
[37] Schachter, S., Goldman, R., & Gordon, A. (1968). Effects of fear, food deprivation and obesity on eating. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 10, 91-97. doi:10.1037/h0026284
[38] Tamim, H., Tamim, R., Almawi, W., Rahi, A., Shamseddeen, W., Ghazi, A., Taha, A., & Musharrafieh, U. (2006). Risky weight control among university students. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 39, 80-83. doi:10.1002/eat.20205
[39] Tiggerman, M., Verri, A., & Scaravaggi, S. (2005). Body dissatisfaction, disordered eating, fashion magazines, and clothes: A cross-cultural comparison between Australian and Italian young women, International Journal of Psychology, 40, 293-302. doi:10.1080/00207590444000311
[40] van Strien, T. (1996). On the relationship between dieting and “obese” and bulimic eating patterns. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 19, 83-92. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1098-108X(199601)19:1<83::AID-EAT10>3.0.CO;2-R
[41] van Strien, T., Herman, P., & Verheijden, M. (2009). Eating style, over-eating, and overweight in a representative Dutch sample. Does external eating play a role? Appetite, 52, 380-387. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2008.11.010
[42] van Strien, T., Frijters, J. E., Bergers, G. P., & Defares, P. B. (1986). The Dutch eating behavior questionnaire for assessment of restrained, emotional and external eating behaviour. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 5, 295-315. doi:10.1002/1098-108X(198602)5:2<295::AID-EAT2260050209>3.0.CO;2-T
[43] van Strien, T., Frijters, J. E. R., Roosen, R. G. F., Knuiman-Hijl, W. J., & Defares, P. B. (1985). Eating behavior, personality traits and body mass in women. Addictive Behaviors, 10, 333-343. doi:10.1016/0306-4603(85)90029-2
[44] Waller, G., & Osman, S. (1998). Emotional eating and eating psychopathology among non-eating-disordered women. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 23, 419-424. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1098-108X(199805)23:4<419::AID-EAT9>3.0.CO;2-L
[45] Wei, L., Chi-Ming H., Hsiao-Chi Y., & Ming-Hui, H. (2011). 2005-2008 Nutrition and health survey in Taiwan: The nutrition knowledge, attitude and behavior of 19-64 years old adults. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 20, 309-318.

Copyright © 2023 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.