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Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Science (M.S.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



Dietitians are expected to deliver sound and scientifically objective advice to the general public, yet their personal beliefs and behaviors could influence delivery of nutrition care. Increased understanding of the personal attitudes and behaviors of dietitians concerning eating behavior and body image could help improve dietetic practice. Traditional nutrition education emphasizes cognitive eating, i.e., monitoring energy intake and comparing macronutrient intakes to the current acceptable ranges. Intuitive eating, however, promotes the release of cognitive eating in favor of greater attention to physiologic cues, or “body wisdom”. We hypothesized that nutrition students in a traditional curriculum would report eating less intuitively than non-nutrition majors.

We surveyed 258 female undergraduate students (96 nutrition majors and 162 non-majors) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Using Mann-Whitney U tests, we assessed the differences between nutrition majors and non-majors in terms of: intuitive eating, as measured by the Intuitive Eating Scale-2 (IES-2); body mass index (BMI, kg/m2); magnitude of body dissatisfaction (actual weight – ideal weight); and dieting behavior. We also used non-parametric Spearman’s rho correlations and Chi-squared statistics to examine relationships between variables. A two-way between-groups analysis of variance was used to calculate statistical differences in intuitive eating scores between diet behavior and major.

Contrary to our working hypothesis, we found that IES-2 scores were significantly higher in majors versus non-majors (p= 0.01) and significantly lower (pnormalor underweight BMI.

These observations provide novel information indicating that nutrition undergraduate students, who have the intention of becoming registered dietitians, report that they eat more intuitively and have a lower degree of body dissatisfaction than do undergraduate students not majoring in nutrition. Additional research is needed to address issues related to body dissatisfaction and body weight.


First Advisor

Alayne Ronnenberg

Second Advisor

Jerusha Nelson Peterman

Third Advisor

Zhenhua Liu