The purpose of the study was to assess relationships between perceived emotional intelligence and eating attitudes among male and female college students. Participants completed online surveys consisting of items from the Trait Meta-Mood Scale (TMMS) and the Eating Attitudes Test (EAT-26). Results from Pearson correlation coefficients indicated inverse relationships between (a) clarity (i.e., TMMS factor involving the capacity to comprehend one's mood) and bulimia/food preoccupation (i.e., “thoughts about food as well as those indicating bulimia,” Garner, Olmsted, & Bohr, 1982, p. 873; r = -.177, p =.001) and (b) repair (i.e., TMMS factor involving the capacity to fix unfavorable moods or sustain favorable ones) and bulimia/food preoccupation (r = -.151, p = .004). Independent t-tests revealed that females reported higher mean scores than males on dieting (i.e., “avoidance of fattening foods and a preoccupation with being thinner,” Garner, Olmsted, & Bohr, p. 873; M = 27.83, M = 18.38, respectively), bulimia/food preoccupation (M = 8.15, M = 4.42, respectively), and oral control (i.e., “self-control of eating and the perceived pressure from others to gain weight,” Garner, Olmsted, & Bohr, p. 873; M = 10.00, M = 8.51, respectively). Results from this study were consistent with the investigators' hypotheses regarding gender differences and the notion that low levels of emotional intelligence are associated with greater risks for developing eating disorder symptomology, namely bulimia/food preoccupation. While not surprising, gender differences regarding dieting, bulimia/food preoccupation, and oral control provide insight for targeting prevention and treatment strategies.
Future research is needed to investigate factors that protect males from experiencing epidemic proportions of eating disorders. Future research also is needed to examine ways in which emotional intelligence can be used to minimize the occurrence of eating disorders and facilitate healthy behavior change among college populations.
Findings from the study present implications for health educators involved in planning and delivering programs related to eating attitudes and behaviors. Specifically, findings can be applied to strategies for preventing and controlling eating disorder symptomology among college students.