An exploratory study of attitudes and perceptions of food portions in individuals with eating disorders

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Virginia Tech


The purpose of this exploratory research was to analyze, through a qualitative in-depth approach, the attitudes and perceptions of food and portion sizes of a group of clients diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa or an eating disorder with bulimic features. To accomplish this, a set of two questionnaires and a food portion test were administered; one at the beginning of treatment and a second at a given interval after treatment began. These responses, along with observations made by the author during patient interviews, will be reported. All patients received either inpatient and/or outpatient treatment from a mental health professional, a dietitian and a medical physician.

The exploratory nature of the study and small sample size (12) prohibit positing of causative connections. Observations were made however, that a distortion of nutrition attitudes exists in the sample studied that were responsive to improvements while receiving treatment from a multidisciplinary team. A tendency to over estimate portions was evident, and no improvement in the second administration supports the need for additional food portion training. These findings were discussed in terms of the study limitations, along with suggestions for future research.