Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Ellen Shanley, Valerie Duffy, Jillian Wanik

Field of Study

Health Promotion


Master of Science

Open Access

Campus Access


Approximately one third of young adults in the United States attend college, representing a large portion of this population (NCES, 2008). Physical activity and dietary habits and preferences are commonly formed during the early adult years. A 2005 national survey indicated that 3 of 10 college students are overweight. According to the Multi-service Eating Disorders Association (MEDA, 2017), up to 91% of college students have attempted to control their weight through dietary restriction and over-exercise. The cultural pressures that glorify thinness and value perfection increase this risk, especially in a college environment where these thoughts and behaviors are normalized (MEDA, 2018, Walden Center, 2018). With this information, it is clear that college students are a high-risk population for both under- and over-exercise and under- and over-eating. The primary purpose of this study was to determine if there were any relationships between physical activity patterns and body image, disordered eating, diet quality, and stress levels. In the present study, 251 female undergraduate students at the University of Connecticut completed a questionnaire measuring physical activity preferences, health and dietary behaviors, nighttime eating, disordered eating, body image, stress, sleep, and demographic information. The direct impact of physical activity preference on physical activity level, and the mediation effects of body image, disordered eating, diet quality, and stress were evaluated. The study failed to identify a direct effect between physical activity preference and physical activity level. Additionally, stress was not found to be a significant mediator. Body image, disordered eating, and diet quality were found to be significant mediators between physical activity preference and physical activity level, despite the direct effect lacking significance.

Major Advisor

Ellen Shanley