A grounded theory of women's eating patterns
Robinson, Rebecca W.
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This study addresses the lack of knowledge that exists regarding the way women eat. The purpose of the study was to generate a tentative theory of women's eating patterns from women's experiences within the full context of their life history and environment. Theoretical sampling identified the 20 women who participated in the study. They came from varying educational backgrounds and social strata. They ranged in age from 30 to 70 and weighed from 125 to 265 pounds. An unstructured interview guided the participants through an examination of both past and current eating patterns. The findings were compared, contrasted, and analyzed using grounded theory methodology. A regulated pattern was typical of childhood and women living within a family situation. A variation of this pattern labeled the farm family pattern was identified from the retrospectives of participants with a rural background. In sharp contrast to the regulated pattern of women living within a family structure, a flexible, irregular pattern labeled the reflexive pattern emerged as unique to women who live alone. There was evidence of a reactive eating pattern among all participants. The manifestation of this pattern was highly variable among the participants and was characterized by eating changes related to such factors as emotions, availability of food, and perception of self as fat. Overweight women and normal weight women revealed distinct differences in reactive patterns. The final pattern identified was a proactive pattern characterized by an inner awareness of self and the design of a pattern of best fit between self and environment.