Date of Award

May 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Raymond Fleming

Committee Members

Marcellus Merritt, Diane Reddy, Hanjoo Lee, Shawn Cahill


diet, food, gender, health, social media, weight


Past research has shown that social factors, such as social facilitation, influence what and how much people eat (Zajonc, 1965). One key factor seems to be others’ weights; people have a tendency to dissociate themselves with obese eaters (Barthomeuf, Rousset, & Droit-Volet, 2012; McFerran, Dahl, Fitzsimons, & Morales, 2010). A pilot study was completed to assess how people viewed food photos posted to Instagram, as well as their social media habits. These findings were used in the design of the present study; the purpose of the present study is to determine whether social factors involved in eating, like others’ weight, apply in online settings. This study investigated whether food posts by people of different health orientations (“health journey” vs. no health journey) and weights (control vs. normal weight vs. overweight/obese) were viewed differently in terms of healthiness of the featured food, as well as how likely one was to eat it. It was hypothesized that photos posted by an overweight/obese individual would be rated as less healthy and as having a lower likelihood of being eaten than foods posted by normal weight individuals. It was also hypothesized that photos posted by an overweight/obese person on a health journey would be rated more favorably than an overweight/obese person who was not on a health journey. Ratings of the perceived healthiness and likelihood of eating the foods in the photos were analyzed using 2 (health orientation) X 3 (weight) MANCOVAs. Results showed a significant main effect of health orientation and a significant health orientation X weight interaction for ratings of healthiness. Follow-up tests showed significant interactions for four food photos. Tests of simple effects suggest that there may be underlying biases against overweight/obese people influencing perceptions of food health, though these findings were relatively inconsistent. Further research is needed to fully understand this relationship.