Following a Calorie-Restricted Diet May Help in Reducing Healthcare Students’ Fat-Phobia
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- Cotugna, N. & Mallick, A. J Community Health (2010) 35: 321. doi:10.1007/s10900-010-9226-9
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Data from National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2005/2006 show that 32.7% of US adults are overweight (BMI 25.0–29.9), 34.3% are obese (BMI 30–39.9), and 5.9% are extremely obese (BMI ≥ 40). For the first time, the number of obese American adults is greater than those who are merely overweight. Negative attitudes and fat phobia toward the overweight exist not only in the general population, but also among health professionals including dietitians and dietetics students. The purpose of this study was to determine if fat phobia might be reduced among future professionals by putting students on a calorie-restricted diet for a short period. Forty dietetics and health promotion students enrolled in a university obesity course completed the Fat Phobia Scale test before and after following a calorie restricted diet for 1 week (1,200 calories and 1,500 calories for women and men, respectively). Students also reflected their thoughts about following such a diet via brief journal entries. Results showed the change in fat phobias after following a calorie-restricted diet was significant. Many journal entries reflected a newfound respect for individuals struggling to lose weight and change in prior negative attitudes. Students reported that this experience would impact their future dealings with overweight/obese clients. It may be useful to incorporate this type of activity into the training of nutrition and other health professional students to increase sensitivity and reduce existing biases and negative attitudes toward overweight/obese clients.