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Author

Emily Pratt

Date of Award

Spring 2010

Document Type

Restricted Thesis: Campus only access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Scott T. Allison

Abstract

Public health research over the past thirty years shows a striking increase in the prevalence of overweight, obesity and extreme obesity among adults in the United States, contributing to a variety of serious health problems. Research indicates that individuals’ perceptions of nutrition and exercise are often flawed. The present study investigated these perceptions in undergraduate students. Students at the University of Richmond were administered a questionnaire asking them to estimate caloric intake and expenditure through various foods consumed and physical activities performed, as well as hypothetical weight gain. Results showed that participants overestimated the calories in an “underfed” meal plan, while they underestimated the calories in an “overfed” meal plan. Additionally, participants underestimated calorie expenditure at a resting rate, but overestimated the effects of the exercise itself. These findings suggest that individuals may underestimate the negative effects of overeating, which may lead to obesity, and overestimate the negative effects of undereating, which may lead to eating disorders. The results suggest a need for improved education on nutrition and exercise issues in order to combat the growing prevalence of both obesity and eating disorders.

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