Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.

Department (Legacy)

Department of Educational and Counseling Psychology

Committee Chair

Pössel, Patrick

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Owen, Jesse

Committee Member

Valentine, Jeffery

Committee Member

Hochbein, Craig


Food habits--Psychological aspects; Avoidance (Psychology); Body image--Psychological aspects


Disordered eating is associated with several negative outcomes and often lead to diagnosable eating disorders. The coping strategies used by those with disordered eating may contribute to such consequences. Past research has found experiential avoidance to be common among those with disordered eating to escape uncomfortable internal experiences. The current study suggested that repetitive thinking and overvaluation of weight and shape are two such mechanisms by which avoidance of negative core beliefs, in particular, is achieved. It was hypothesized that eating disorder symptoms, negative core beliefs, experiential avoidance, overvaluation of weight and shape and repetitive thinking would all be positively and significantly correlated with one another, as measured through Pearson correlation as well as the strength of association in the regression paths via Structural Equation Modeling (SEM). Further it was hypothesized that the variables as a whole would have significant model fit, indicating that repetitive thought and overvaluation of weight and shape would be two mechanisms by which those with disordered eating avoid negative core beliefs. A total of 344 participants were recruited for this cross-sectional study from offline, online, community, and clinical sites nation-wide; 244 were included in the final sample. The majority of this final sample identified as female (84.8%), White (88.1%), are from the US South (63.1%), and were recruited through the community (80.3%). The data were assessed using SEM in order to provide a more reliable measure of assessing how the variables interact as a whole. Results indicated that the study’s first hypothesis was met - the variables were all significantly and positively correlated with one another at the p < .001 level. The strength of associations in the regression paths were also positive and significant, with small to large effect sizes. However, the hypothesized model was not a significant fit to the data, and it is possible that the participants’ retrospective recall of their repetitive thoughts and the potential omission of a significant moderating variable led to the model not achieving a better fit. Overall, the study possesses significant strengths through its variability in sample (i.e., including clinical and non-clinical as well as female and non-female participants) and exploratory examination of how the variables relate to one another. It is recommended that future studies continue to explore these relationships to determine how those with disordered eating cope with their negative core beliefs through avoidance and what interventions can be developed to assist in recovery.