Lenny R Vartanian

Lenny R Vartanian
UNSW Sydney | UNSW · School of Psychology

PhD

About

125
Publications
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Introduction

Publications

Publications (125)
Article
Exposure to images of idealized bodies in the media has been shown to increase body dissatisfaction among women. One of the mechanisms through which exposure influences body dissatisfaction is appearance-based comparison with the people in the images. The present study tested the hypothesis that individuals low in self-concept clarity (i.e., indivi...
Article
Regular weighing is a routine component of public health interventions but concerns have been raised about possible negative psychological consequences. Blind weighing is an alternative form of weighing that is commonly used in clinical contexts, and that is thought to decrease weighing anxiety and engagement with disordered eating behaviours. In t...
Article
Appearance comparisons can negatively influence women’s body image, but little is known about the potential impact of comparison targets. We conducted an ecological momentary assessment study in which female undergraduate students (N = 146) completed a brief online survey at five random times every day for five days. In this survey, participants we...
Article
People’s interest in cosmetic surgery has increased in recent years. Drawing from objectification theory, in the present study, we examined the associations of body talk on social networking sites (SNS), body surveillance, and body shame with cosmetic surgery consideration. In particular, we examined the mediating roles of body surveillance and bod...
Article
Full-text available
One of the most powerful influences on food intake yet identified is the presence of familiar others at an eating occasion: people eat much more when they eat with friends/family than when they eat alone. But why this is the case is unclear. Across two studies (Study 1: N = 98; Study 2: N = 120), we found that the mere anticipation of social intera...
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Background: Weighing is a key component in the treatment of eating disorders. Most treatment protocols advocate for open weighing, however, many clinicians choose to use blind weighing, especially during the early phase of treatment. Despite considerable debate about this issue in the literature, there is no empirical evidence supporting the super...
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Psychological interventions may be effective in improving adherence after bariatric surgery; however, there is limited research on patients' willingness to engage with psychological aftercare. This study aimed to qualitatively explore patient perspectives on psychological services in the bariatric setting. Participants reported believing that psych...
Article
Objective Individuals with obesity are often recommended weight loss for their health; however, the amount of weight loss that is recommended varies. Lay people’s beliefs about weight loss could influence the types of behaviours they view as necessary for people with obesity. The present study explored lay beliefs regarding the health benefits of v...
Article
The Theory of Normal Eating suggests that how much others eat sets an upper limit for how much it is appropriate to eat. This study tested the hypothesis that restrained eaters, who typically eat less than they want to, would be more responsive to a high-intake norm than would unrestrained eaters. Data were combined from 8 experimental studies (tot...
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Objective Overweight and obesity are universal health challenges. Recent evidence emphasises the potential benefits of addressing psychological factors associated with obesity in dietary programmes. This pilot study investigated the efficacy and acceptability of a combined online and face-to-face dietary intervention that used self-compassion, goal...
Article
“Overeating” is a significant public health concern, but little is known about how lay people conceptualize overeating. This study explored participants' conceptions of overeating. Participants were 175 university students and 296 community members (56% women) who were asked to rate the extent to which several statements reflected the concept of “o...
Article
Background: Experiencing adversity in childhood is associated with increased risk of a range of psychopathologies, including depression and anxiety disorders. However, there is limited understanding of psychological mechanisms that may help to explain these relationships. The Identity Disruption Model proposes that early adversity can disrupt typi...
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Objective: Patterns of 'compensatory eating' following exercise are likely to be harmful for long-term health and counterproductive for weight loss goals. However, little is known about reasons why people eat unhealthily after exercising. Thus, we aimed to develop a measure that assesses reasons why people engage in compensatory unhealthy eating....
Article
A few cross-sectional studies have found that selfie-related behaviors have positive associations with self-objectification or appearance concerns, but little is known about whether bidirectional relationships exist between selfie behaviors and these body-related variables over time. The present study examined the reciprocal relationships between s...
Article
The Identity Disruption Model posits that negative early life experiences are associated with disrupted personal identity, which in turn increases the risk of internalizing societal standards of attractiveness and body dissatisfaction. Although internalization plays a central role in this model, it is unclear which aspect(s) of internalization (awa...
Chapter
Social factors play a critical role in determining people’s food intake, but are they aware of the influence that these social factors have? In this chapter, we review evidence related to three key questions about awareness: (1) Do people notice how much others eat? (2) Are people aware of how much they eat in social situations? (3) Are people awar...
Chapter
Modeling of food intake refers to the tendency for people to adjust the amount of food they eat to approximate the amount eaten by their eating companion. People eat more when eating with someone who eats a lot, and they eat less when eating with someone who eat very little. In this chapter, we summarize the research documenting the modeling effect...
Chapter
Even before deciding how much to eat, people usually have already chosen what they are going to eat. Food choice and food preferences are determined in part by biological factors, but social factors play an important role. Studies of modeling show that young children and young adults imitate the food choices of others. This is true when the options...
Chapter
A large literature shows that people compare themselves to others on a wide variety of dimensions; this is called social comparison. Such comparisons to other people can provide useful guides for our behavior, and they may also have emotional consequences, affecting our self-esteem and happiness. We compare ourselves to others with respect to our f...
Chapter
Before we examine in detail some of the extensive research on social influences on eating, it’s important to discuss two general kinds of concerns about research: methodological concerns and ethical concerns. Both limit what researchers do while conducting research. Methodologically speaking, for research to tell us anything useful, it must be desi...
Chapter
Research on modeling, consumption stereotypes, and impression management is consistent with our theory emphasizing norms of appropriateness. In this chapter we turn to some bodies of research that are less obviously related to norms of appropriateness; however, we believe they are related. The basic idea is that people can figure out what and how m...
Chapter
What we choose to eat, and how much we eat, are powerfully affected by the behavior of other people, as we have seen. To a large extent, we base our food choices on what others choose, and we tend to eat more or less depending on whether our eating companions eat more or less (modeling). We also choose to eat particular foods so as to make a positi...
Chapter
In the previous chapter, we considered the idea that the amount of food that a person eats is often used by others as a basis for inferences about that person; we referred to these inferences as “consumption stereotypes.”
Chapter
People form impressions of others based on how much those others eat—we refer to these judgments as “consumptions stereotypes”. For example, people who eat large amounts of food are often viewed as more masculine and less feminine than are people who eat small amounts of food. Given the existence of these consumption stereotypes, people can use the...
Chapter
At the end of the Introductory chapter, we alluded to our Theory of Normal Eating. In this chapter, we will flesh out that theory and elaborate on some of the ideas we presented earlier.
Chapter
People eat differently when eating with another person than they do when eating alone. Specifically, we tend to eat similarly to those with whom we eat, sticking more closely to eating norms, and mimicking what and how much our eating companions consume. Eating together and eating according to similar cultural norms or rules has been shown to be a...
Chapter
Overeating can refer to eating more than we had intended to eat, eating more than our eating companions eat, or eating more than norms dictate is an appropriate amount. The act of overeating, however it is defined in a particular situation, has effects on people. These effects may be cognitive (i.e., related to our thoughts), emotional, or behavior...
Article
Background: Research suggests that people tend to eat more when eating with other people, compared with when they eat alone, and this is known as the social facilitation of eating. However, little is known about when and why this phenomenon occurs. Objectives: This review aimed to quantify the evidence for social facilitation of eating and ident...
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Introduction: Public health interventions need to balance the benefits with any potential harms. One proposed intervention for reducing sugar-sweetened beverage consumption involves placing graphic warning labels on products and advertisements. A recent study found that a graphic warning label that contained negative imagery of obesity reduced pur...
Article
Background and objectives: Intolerance of uncertainty (IU) is a transdiagnostic process contributing to the maintenance of anxiety disorders, and is a potential target for treatment. Recent literature has investigated IU as a cognitive process underpinning pathological fear and anxiety in Anorexia Nervosa (AN). The current study was designed to ex...
Book
This book examines how the social environment affects food choices and intake, and documents the extent to which people are unaware of the significant impact of social factors on their eating. The authors take a unique approach to studying eating behaviors in ordinary circumstances, presenting a theory of normal eating that highlights social influe...
Article
Background Public health campaigns commonly emphasise the association between excess weight and poor health. The present study aimed to examine the effect of information about weight and engagement with health behaviours on judgements of a person's health. Method In two experimental studies, participants were asked to evaluate a target person's he...
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Full-text available
Overweight and obesity are universal health challenges, with behavioural weight management often failing to produce long-term effects. Various psychological factors, including body dissatisfaction and disordered eating, have been linked to weight gain overtimes. However, the majority of weight loss interventions do not address these aspects. Additi...
Article
Objective: Weight-based stigmatization is associated with negative psychological and behavioral consequences, but individuals respond to stigma in different ways. The present study aimed to understand some of the factors that predict how one will cope with weight stigma and how different coping responses predict psychological well-being. Methods:...
Article
Objective: The current study examined a theoretical model (the identity disruption model) linking negative early life experiences to body dissatisfaction and disordered eating via self-concept clarity and sociocultural factors (internalization of beauty ideals and appearance comparison tendencies). Method: 1,023 participants (52% women) complete...
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Background: Although the stigma of eating disorders such as anorexia has been well established, little is known about the social consequences of "clean dieting" and orthorexia nervosa. In two studies, we examined the social stigma of clean dieting and orthorexia. Method: In Study 1, participants read a vignette describing a woman following a "cl...
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People who are overweight or obese are frequently stigmatized because of their weight, but there has been limited exploration of how people cope with these experiences. The Coping Responses Inventory (CRI) assesses a wide range of coping strategies in response to weight stigma, however its length (99 items) may have prevented it from being widely u...
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Background: Culture plays an important role in shaping individuals' health behaviors. This qualitative research examines the relationship between African Americans' ethnic and mainstream cultures and their health behaviors (i.e., food intake and physical activity). Methods: This study used in-depth semi-structured interview format with a group o...
Article
There is accumulating evidence that disgust plays an important role in prejudice toward individuals with obesity, but that research is primarily based on self-reported emotions. In four studies, we examined whether participants displayed a physiological marker of disgust (i.e. levator labii activity recorded using facial electromyography) in respon...
Article
Normative eating cues (portion size, social factors) have a powerful impact on people's food intake, but people often fail to acknowledge the influence of these cues, instead explaining their food intake in terms of internal (hunger) or sensory (taste) cues. This study examined whether the same biases apply when making predictions about how much fo...
Article
Appearance comparisons are an important sociocultural factor influencing women’s body image. These comparisons can occur in different contexts (e.g., through magazines, social media, in person). However, little is known about the frequency and outcome of appearance comparisons made in different contexts in women’s everyday lives. Using Ecological M...
Article
Cognitive theories emphasise the important role of attentional biases in the development and maintenance of body image issues and eating pathology. A wealth of research has been conducted to examine attentional biases toward body-related information among individuals with eating pathology. However, there is considerable variability in the methods t...
Article
This study examined the relationship between Instagram use (overall, as well as specifically viewing fitspiration images) and body image concerns and self-objectification among women between the ages of 18 and 25 from the United States (n = 203) and from Australia (n = 73). Furthermore, this study tested whether internalization of the societal beau...
Article
Objective: We examined whether people’s attributions for their eating behaviour differ according to whether they believe they have eaten more, less or about the same as they normally would. Design: Participants were served a small or large portion of pasta for lunch. Afterwards, they were asked to compare how much they ate in the study to how much...
Chapter
In this chapter, we outline a theoretical model in which early adverse experiences lead to body dissatisfaction and disordered eating by impairing the development of a clear and coherent sense of self. We review empirical evidence linking early adversity and lower self-concept clarity. Relative to individuals high in self-concept clarity, those low...
Article
Weight stigma is a pervasive social problem that can negatively impact the health and well-being of stigmatized individuals. The present study used ecological momentary assessment (EMA) to assess the motivational consequences of weight stigma in people’s everyday lives. Forty-six community adults (22 men, 24 women) completed baseline measures of pr...
Article
This study examined the associations among early family adversity (e.g., family violence, neglect), self-concept clarity (i.e., having a clear and coherent sense of one's own personal identity), thin-ideal internalization, and body dissatisfaction. Female university students in Australia (n = 323) and adult female community members in the United St...
Article
Objectives: Unfulfilled basic psychological needs have been associated with disordered eating behaviours, but the mechanisms underlying that associations are not well understood. This study examined a two-stage path model linking basic psychological need satisfaction to disordered eating behaviours via issues of control. Methods: Female universi...
Article
Objective: Social factors have a powerful influence on people's food intake but people typically fail to acknowledge the influence of such external cues, instead explaining their food intake in terms of factors such as how hungry they are. We examined whether the tendency to explain one's food intake in terms of internal cues (i.e., hunger) rather...
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Objective Large portions of food are often blamed for rising rates of obesity. We tested the possibility that people who are heavier may tend to select or prefer larger portions than do people who are lighter. Methods Participants (total N = 798) were asked to choose between a small and larger portion of pasta for a hypothetical meal (Studies 1, 2...
Article
Norms of appropriateness have been used to account for the influence of a variety of external eating cues (e.g., social factors, portion size) on people's food intake. What is less clear is what, exactly, “appropriate” means. This study explored participants' conceptions of appropriate food intake. Two separate samples were included in this study:...
Article
Larger portion sizes have consistently been shown to lead to greater food intake. However, studies of the portion size effect typically provided participants with a single portion of food at a time without any objective information about the size of the portion, and hence failed to consider the potential significance of contextual size information....
Article
This paper provides an overview of research on social media and body image. Correlational studies consistently show that social media usage (particularly Facebook) is associated with body image concerns among young women and men, and longitudinal studies suggest that this association may strengthen over time. Furthermore, appearance comparisons pla...
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Background: Issues of personal control have been proposed to play a central role in the aetiology and maintenance of eating disorders. Empirical evidence supporting this relationship is inconsistent, partly due to the multiplicity of constructs used to define "control". This study compares six commonly used measures of control with the aim of dete...
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Three studies examined the role of causal beliefs in weight stigma in order to better understand people's evaluations of individuals with obesity. Participants viewed weight-related information about a target individual and evaluated that target on various dimensions. Study 1 showed that offset effort information (i.e., information about effort to...
Article
How do cluttered, chaotic environments—such as messy kitchens—influence snacking behavior? How does one's mind-set help prevent unwanted snacking from occurring? One hundred one female undergraduate students participated under standard-kitchen conditions or in a chaotic-kitchen condition. Participants were also asked to recall and write about a tim...
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Full-text available
Weight stigma is associated with a range of negative outcomes, including disordered eating, but the psychological mechanisms underlying these associations are not well understood. The present study tested whether the association between weight stigma experiences and disordered eating behaviors (emotional eating, uncontrolled eating, and loss-of-con...
Article
This research examined the effects of both episodic memory and episodic future thinking (EFT) on snack food intake. In Study 1, female participants (n = 158) were asked to recall their lunch from earlier in the day, to think about the dinner they planned to have later in the day, or to think about a non-food activity before taking part in a cookie...
Article
Weight stigma is a pervasive social problem, and this paper reviews the evidence linking weight stigma to eating behavior. Correlational studies consistently find that experiences with weight stigma are associated with unhealthy eating behaviors and eating pathology (such as binge eating, skipping meals), although results vary somewhat depending on...
Article
Large portion sizes are frequently blamed for the obesity epidemic. In this paper, we examine the culpability of large portion sizes. It is true that portion sizes have increased during the obesity epidemic, but there is as yet little evidence that exposure to large portions produces significant weight gain. Furthermore, some evidence argues agains...
Article
How do cluttered, chaotic environments – such as messy kitchens – influence snacking behavior? How does one’s mindset help prevent unwanted snacking from occurring?101 female undergraduate students participated under standard kitchen conditions or in a chaotic kitchen condition. Participants were also asked to recall and write about a time when the...
Article
Full-text available
The media’s portrayal of women is often sexually objectifying, and greater exposure to objectifying media is associated with higher levels of self-objectification among young women. One reason why media usage may be associated with self- objectification is because women may be comparing their appearance to others in the media. The present study exa...
Article
Social influences are powerful determinants of food intake. Whereas some people are willing to acknowledge social influences on their food intake, others seem to actively deny being influenced by social cues. Across three samples (total n=835), we examined factors that prior theory and research suggest might predict people's willingness to acknowle...
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Objective The Stigmatizing Situations Inventory (SSI) is one of the most commonly used measures of weight stigma experiences but may be impractical for some researchers because of its length (50 items). The present report describes the development and validation of a brief version of the SSI that could be used as a more efficient tool for assessing...
Article
This study examined the relevance of disgust to evaluations of an obese target person, and the connection between disgust and prejudice toward that person. Participants (n=598) viewed an image of an obese or non-obese woman, and then evaluated that woman on a number of dimensions (emotions, attitudes, stereotypes, desire for social distance). Compa...
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Full-text available
Appearance comparisons are an important socio-cultural factor influencing body dissatisfaction among young women. These appearance comparisons can occur when interacting with another person, reading magazines, watching television, or when engaging with social media. However, little is known about the frequency and outcome of appearance comparisons...
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Full-text available
Objectives: This study examined whether self-focused and other-focused resiliency help explain how early family adversity relates to perceived stress, subjective health, and health behaviors in college women. Participants: Female students (n = 795) participated between October 2009 and May 2010. Methods: Participants completed self-report meas...
Article
Obesity is a major public health concern worldwide. Because individual-level interventions have been unsuccessful at curbing obesity rates, there is an emphasis on public health approaches. In addition to testing the effectiveness of any public health interventions, it is important to consider the ethical implications of these interventions in orde...
Article
This study examined the causal relationship between attention and memory bias toward thin-body images, and the indirect effect of attending to thin-body images on women's body dissatisfaction via memory. In a 2 (restrained vs. unrestrained eaters) × 2 (long vs. short exposure) quasi-experimental design, female participants (n = 90) were shown image...
Article
The present study experimentally investigated the effect of Facebook usage on women's mood and body image, whether these effects differ from an online fashion magazine, and whether appearance comparison tendency moderates any of these effects. Female participants (N = 112) were randomly assigned to spend 10 min browsing their Facebook account, a ma...
Article
The portion-size effect (PSE) refers to the fact that people eat more when served larger portions. This effect is neither obvious nor artifactual. We examine the prevailing explanations (or underlying mechanisms) that have been offered for the PSE. The dominant candidate mechanism is "appropriateness"; that is, people accept the portion that they a...
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This meta-analysis provides a comprehensive quantitative assessment of research on modeling of food intake. Thirty-eight articles met inclusion criteria. Overall, there was a large modeling effect (r = .39) such that participants ate more when their companion ate more, and ate less when their companion ate less. Furthermore, social models appear to...
Article
Use of social media, such as Facebook, is pervasive among young women. Body dissatisfaction is also highly prevalent in this demographic. The present study examined the relationship between Facebook usage and body image concerns among female university students (N=227), and tested whether appearance comparisons on Facebook in general, or comparison...
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"I feel fat" is a statement women, and increasingly men, often make. Clinical observations indicate that these feelings of fat are experienced more intensely and frequently in those who suffer from eating disorders. However, physical fat is not an emotion that one can "feel". According to body displacement theory, the propensity to mislabel fat as...
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We examined the impact of offset controllability (capability of losing weight) and offset effort (efforts to lose weight) on judgments of an obese target. Participants (n = 216) read about an obese person whose body weight was controllable/uncontrollable, and who did/did not put in effort to eat healthily and exercise. Effort played a more importan...
Article
Research has shown that the bigger the portion that people are served, the more food they eat; this phenomenon is referred to as the portion-size effect. Providing objective serving-size information on food products has been shown to reduce the influence of external food cues on people's eating behavior. The current study examined whether providing...
Article
Objective: The "unit bias" has been proposed as an explanation for the portion-size effect; people consider a single unit to be an appropriate amount to eat and thus eat more when served a larger unit than when served a smaller unit. We suggest that the unit bias might be better characterized as a "segmentation effect," such that people eat less w...
Article
Objective: Early adverse experiences have been associated with disordered eating, but the mechanisms underlying that association are not well understood. The purpose of this study is to test a structural equation model in which early adversity is associated with disordered eating via intrapersonal resources, interpersonal resources, and body dissa...
Article
This paper reviews recent research on consumption stereotypes (judgments of others based on what they eat) and impression management (modifying one's eating behavior in order to create a particular impression). A major recent focus in the literature has been on masculinity and meat eating, with research showing that meat is strongly associated with...
Article
The present study examined the phenomenology of weight stigma in people's everyday lives. Participants were 46 community adults who took part in an ecological momentary assessment study of their experiences with weight stigma. Over a two-week period, participants completed a brief survey following each experience with weight stigma in which they re...
Article
Objective: The aim of this study was to determine whether providing information about the lifestyle changes required for an individual to lose weight following bariatric surgery would mitigate the negative judgments of that individual. Methods: In an experimental design, participants provided their initial impressions of a woman with obesity bef...