Obesity, Eating Disorders Discourage College Dates

Article excerpt

Men and women seem to have an equal tendency to avoid dating people with eating disorders. But when it comes to obesity, men are far less accepting than women, says a new Division of Nutritional Sciences study.

"Students - and probably others - generally stigmatize people with eating disorders, and as a result, many are reluctant to become involved in romantic relationships with a person who has anorexia nervosa or bulimia," says Jeffery Sobal, a nutritional sociologist and associate professor of nutritional sciences, who conducted the study of college men and women.

Men, however, do not stigmatize women with eating disorders as severely as they do obese women. Women, on the other hand, do not stigmatize men with eating disorders any more or less than they do men who are obese, he adds.

Specifically, 53 percent of the men and 59 percent of the women in the study said they wouldn't want to date a person with an eating disorder. Yet 74 percent of men and 60 percent of women reported they are uncomfortable dating someone who is obese.

"This suggests that rejection of obese individuals remains a powerful value in contemporary society, especially the male rejection of obese women that undergirds the society emphasis on slimness for women and contributes to eating disorders," write Sobal and his coauthor, Mark Bursztyn, in the most recent issue of Women and Health (Vol. 27, No. 3, pp. 71-87, 1998). Bursztyn, now a medical student at the SUNY Sciences Center at Brooklyn College of Medicine, worked on the project as an undergraduate student at Cornell.

Sobal and Bursztyn analyzed written questionnaires from 752 university students to assess dating attitudes, beliefs, and experiences related to anorexia nervosa and bulimia. …