MUST EVERYONE CLEAN THEIR PLATES?
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CULTURE, FOOD RULES AND
DISORDERED EATING AMONGST MINORITY WOMEN.
Melissa Ann McLain
A Dissertation Presented to the
FACULTY OF THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
In Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
Copyright 2007 Melissa A. McLain
A relatively new concept in the field of eating disorder research is that of food rules (Puhl & Schwartz, 2003). From a mother's urging to "clean your plate", or the threat of "no dessert if you don't finish your vegetables", food rules are introduced to us at a young age and have been shown to impact the way we eat (Counihan, 1992; Orrell-Valente et al., 2007; Puhl & Schwartz). Because these rules are embedded in ethnic, cultural and familial influences on food and eating, it is hoped that they will be able to facilitate a more culturally sensitive understanding of eating disorders (Lake, Staiger & Glowinski, 1999). This study, using an internet survey from minority females at large universities in the Southwestern United States, gathered information on food rules, disordered eating and cultural identity. Results showed that there are significant differences in disordered eating across ethnic groups, and that there is a significant relationship between food rules and disordered eating. However, when food rules were explored across ethnic groups, there were surprisingly more similarities than differences. These findings have implications not only for eating disorder researchers and treatment providers, but also for individuals interested in healthy eating and nutrition. This study speaks to the importance of exploring food rules as a new domain in the field of eating disorder research.