To Eat or Not to Eat Red Meat. A Closer Look at the Relationship Between Restrained Eating and Vegetarianism in College Females

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Short Description:
This study investigates the claim that vegetarianism is utilized to mask eating disordered behaviors. The researchers surveyed women in college who were vegetarians, pesco-vegetarians, flexitarians, red meat avoiders, and omnivores. They found that, while avoiding red meat and flexitarian diets were related to concerns over diet, vegetarianism and pesco-vegetarianism were more likely to be related to ethical concerns.

Article Abstract:

"Previous research has suggested that vegetarianism may serve as a mask for restrained eating. The purpose of this study was to compare the dietary habits and lifestyle behaviors of vegetarians (n = 55), pesco-vegetarians (n = 28), semi-vegetarians (n = 29), and flexitarians (n = 37), to omnivores (n = 91), who do not restrict animal products from their diets. A convenience sample of college-age females completed questionnaires about their eating habits, food choice motivations, and personality characteristics."

"Results indicated that while vegetarians and pesco-vegetarians were more open to new experiences and less food neophobic, they were not more restrained than omnivores. Rather semi-vegetarians; those who restricted only red meat from their diet, and flexitarians; those who occasionally eat red meat, were significantly more restrained than omnivores. Whereas food choices of semi-vegetarians and flexitarians were motivated by weight control, vegetarians and pesco-vegetarians’ food choices were motivated by ethical concerns. By focusing specifically on semi-vegetarian and flexitarian subgroups, more effective approaches can be developed to ensure that their concerns about weight loss do not lead to unhealthful or disordered eating patterns."

Spot Check Number: 1997
Sponsor: College of William & Mary
Researcher/Author: Catherine A. Forestell, Andrea M. Spaeth, Stephanie A. Kane
Research Method: Print Survey
Geographic Region: United States National
Number of Participants: 240
Population Descriptors: Vegetarians, College students, Women, pesco-vegetarians, semi-vegetarians, omnivores, flexitarians
Year Conducted: 2012
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